13 Aug 2020

Tools for reducing anxiety and helping children with wellbeing

From Nine To Noon, 11:25 am on 13 August 2020

Sparklers is an online wellbeing resource for teachers, which was created by the All Right? Campaign following the Canterbury earthquakes to support children. 

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Photo: wikiHow

When Covid struck in March, Sparklers at Home was launched for parents and children.

Anna Mowat from Sparklers says the online tool has been evaluated and has proven effective.

“We had an evaluation over 8 weeks this year and it was a qualitative study of two Christchurch schools and then a nationwide online survey

“The results are pretty remarkable, I’m stoked, in that we know 99 percent believe that Sparklers reduced anti-social behaviour including bullying, 93 percent believed Sparklers helped create an emotionally supportive class room and 74 percent that it helped regulate emotions and energy levels,” she told Kathryn Ryan.

Families in Auckland will be under renewed pressure at the moment and children may be anxious, she says.

“Answer their questions if they ask them and be confident in the answers we give them.

“But it’s an opportunity to be curious with them too, it’s OK not to know all the answers.”

Concentrate on what you can do, she says

“We can wash our hands, we can stay in our bubbles.

“But don’t over reassure kids because it can make them worry more.

“The more we say don’t worry about it, the more we say it’ll be fine, the more they think there’s something to actually worry about.”

It is important to maintain normal routines, she says.

“They just need you to be a safe calm person in this.

“We can feel uneasy and topsy-turvy on the inside but we can still project and look like we’re calm and we’ve got this.”

When children are over excited or anxious it is never too early to teach breathing techniques, she says.

“As young as possible. When we hold a baby to our chest basically we are regulating their breathing.

“We don’t spend enough time or energy on breathing and how important it is, we know that when we breathe properly right down into our tummy it engages our vagus nerve and that tells our brains to calm down.”

Breathing techniques should be taught when the child is calm, she says.

The activities on the site are play-based, she says

For example, there’s a pirate play activity, quiet games, ones involving slide and others teaching cooperation skills.

All are road-tested in the classroom, she says.

“We figure out ways we can teach a strategy so for example it might be tummy breathing or it might be mindfulness, or it might be cooperation. How can we teach that in an engaging and fun way?

“Then we come up with ideas and go back to the teachers and say would you try that? Does that work?”