The stress of parenting begins before children are born and continues throughout life. It starts with morning sickness, diapers and bath time antics and evolves into bee stings, immunizations, baby sitters, siblings, school admissions, report cards, slumber parties, accidents, discipline, sex education, tertiary education admissions, weddings and grandkids. Not to mention the many hours spent sitting at the side of a pool, court, track or field supporting sports fixtures. All of this, while you juggle: housekeeping, a career, pet care, a taxi service and many other, often overlooked, chores. Developmental psychologists have proven that children learn by imitating adults. A new study has brought a particular kind of imitation to light: Over-imitation – where the child copies absolutely everything an adult shows them, including anxious behaviour.
Why does the anxious child find it so difficult to read and comprehend?
In emotionally stressful situations, an interesting phenomenon occurs, making it impossible to track across a page of writing. The reflex response by your eyes to the sensation of danger, is to move peripherally so they can take in as much of the environment as possible. This makes it very difficult for the eyes to team and track across a page of writing. So you can imagine how difficult it is for an anxious child to read or even comprehend anything, until they have calmed down. This could be why your child is having difficulty learning to read. Children, who are generally good at Mathematics, may have trouble with story sums for the same reason. This also applies to the child who has difficulty following written instructions.
Why does the anxious child find it so difficult to hear and comprehend?
A healthy body, working normally, and not overly stressed, has a sensory system which is also performing normally and providing a wide range of normal sensory information – sight, sound, touch, taste, smell and balance. When the body becomes chronically stressed, this can change. Our senses are dramatically affected in two ways with a stress response:
- Our senses are heightened, so that we can perceive and react to danger more readily.
- Neuronal activity increases in parts of the nervous system to enable us to respond to danger appropriately i.e. to either fight or flee.
The brain works hard to give us just the information required for survival, when we are in a stressful situation. Priority is given to visual information over auditory information. In other words what you see overrides what you hear. This is called ‘auditory exclusion’. All the senses are on high alert when in danger and the least important auditory sense is suppressed to a degree. Therefore, hearing diminishes as stress increases.
Parents can help their children to deal with anxiety or stress
Modeling behavior for children has long-lasting effects and parents need to model good ways to deal with stress or anxiety. Example: Mom finds herself in a frustrating situation and says: “I am feeling really frustrated right now. Please help me calm down by taking 10 deep breaths with me.” It is important to teach your child to express how they are feeling and then to provide them with a tool to calm the situation. We teach extremely helpful breathing techniques in our YogaT2T program, which is available in our online store. Do go to our Sneak Peek section to have a look at the second half of a yoga routine to teach Kindergartens how to relax, called the Relaxation Story. The YogaT2T program demonstrates yoga techniques specifically for people who battle with concentration, stress, anxiety, and the resultant sleeping disorders. This wonderful program caters for Tots through to Teens and can also be used by the adult members of your family.