- Alex's Advice
- Social Situations
Have you ever heard the term lizard brain? No, it’s not from a spooky Halloween story.
Lizard brain refers to the limbic system, which is one of the oldest, most primitive parts of the brain. It controls emotions, moods, and mental and emotional processes, and it’s given the nickname because a lizard’s brain basically functions in only those ways.
It’s in this lizardy area of the brain where anxiety happens for nearly 1 in 4 children.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports that 25% of children ages 13-18 experience an unhealthy level of anxiety at some point -- and my own children are among them, as are many of our students at The Quaker School at Horsham.
I know how debilitating persistent worry can be, and I also know how overwhelming it can be for a parent of a child who struggles with anxiety. So what can you do to help your child cope?
First, stop trying to reassure them.
Remember, lizards have no use for human language -- they are too concerned with staying alive for conversation. When your child’s lizard brain is in charge, they have limited ability to process language. They are not ignoring your attempts to comfort them; they simply cannot comprehend it when you say, “Hey, it’s just a birthday party. There’s nothing to worry about.” Because to them, there IS something to worry about.
Instead of trying to reason with a lizard, use this exercise from Grounded Kids Yoga to help your child turn back into a human.
It’s called Focus 5, and it came to TQS courtesy of the amazing Amanda Hendricks, our full-time yoga instructor. Let’s try it out now!
Close your eyes, raise your hand, and get ready to breathe…
- Take one deep breath, say “1”, and curl your thumb, leaving 4 fingers raised.
- Next, your index finger. Take one deep breath, say “2”, and curl down your index finger.
- Then, your middle finger. Take a deep breath, say “3”, lower your middle finger, leaving two remaining.
- The ring finger is next. Take a deep breath, say “4”, and lower your ring finger.
- Finally, take a deep breath, say “5”, and lower your pinky.
How did you feel? Awesome, right? Truth be told, I do not have any struggle with anxiety and I still use this technique all the time. It’s a great way to reclaim your brain and put that lizard to sleep, even if just for a little while.
The next time your child is feeling overly anxious, try this out -- and let us know how it works for you in the comments below, or over on our Facebook page.
Remember: childhood anxiety is very common. It’s not your job as a parent to take it away, but there are ways that you can help your child ease their stress, one deep breath at a time.