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Resilience Strategies for Kids

Teachers Resource

Compiled by Roxanne Jones


Counsellor Social Responsibility Coordinator
Materials and Resources:
Anxiety BC www.anxietybc.com
Michele Hucul-Kambolis mhucul@shaw.ca
Kenneth W. Merrell http://orp.uoregon.edu

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Strategies that Work for Kids .................................................................................3


Talking to Your Child or Teen About Anxiety.........................................................7
Feelings...............................................................................................................11
Understanding your Feelings - Part 1 .............................................................23
Understanding your Feelings - Part 2 .............................................................31
Calm Breathing ...................................................................................................49
Breathing Techniques ....................................................................................55
Learning to Relax ................................................................................................57
Relaxation Ideas for Children .........................................................................59
How to do Progressive Muscle Relaxation .....................................................61
Lets let go of Stress .......................................................................................69
Changing Negative Thoughts to Positive Thoughts ...........................................73
Healthy Thinking for Younger Children...........................................................75
Realistic Thinking ..........................................................................................83
Clear Thinking - Part 1 ...................................................................................89
Clear Thinking Part 2...................................................................................99
Coping Plans .....................................................................................................109
Developing and using Cognitive Coping Cards ............................................111
Helping Your Child Face Fears ....................................................................115
Problem Solving ................................................................................................127
Other Helping Strategies ...................................................................................131
Anxiety and Learning: What do we Need to Know? .....................................133
Helping your Child Overcome Perfectionism ................................................135
Helping your Anxious Child Make Friends....................................................139
How to Address Excessive Reassurance Seeking .......................................145
Anxiety Reduction Activities for Children and Youth.....................................151
Relaxation is a Breath Away ........................................................................153
Bibliography ......................................................................................................155

Strategies that Work for Kids


All students in the classroom will benefit from the following strategies taught. They
need to be reinforced often. Daily practice for short periods would be really helpful to
them in acquiring and generalizing the tools.
1. First Strategy : Becoming aware of feelings, comfortable and uncomfortable and
normalizing them.(pages 11 to 47)
Generate a list of feelings with your students. Read How Are You Peeling Have
children make a cookbook of feelings. Refer to Second Step lessons on feelings. Talk
about all feelings being OK, the important part being what you do when you feel one or
more of these feelings. Read and discuss feelings of characters in books and have
children identify and relate to those feelings. Have open conversations about feelings.
Have children relate experiences wherein they have had more than one feeling about
the same situation.
Talk about comfortable and uncomfortable feelings. A script that teaches how to talk to
kids about anxiety as well as lessons for teaching kids about emotions is attached
(pages 23 to 47). A good game to play is Change seats with anyone that is sometimes
worried about:
Mom and Dad
Their little brother or sister
Walking alone
Seeing spiders or other bugs
Being in the dark
Looking down from high places
Going to birthday parties
Not having a friend to play with that day
Etc. etc.
Then ask for other worries from kids. The same can be done with feelings of anger,
happiness, disgust, etc. Introduce the feelings thermometer (see attached p.43) and get
kids to rate intensity of fear. A fun way to do this is make a line from one to ten on the
floor and have kids walk to the number after giving them the situation. The mood
thermometer is a good way to begin a day (pages 43 and 44).
Find where feelings are in your body. Give out the Chester the cat handout and have
students color and pair share, where they feel worry, anger, joy etc,. Those who are
willing then share with the whole group. If kids are older use the teen handout (page
46). Focusing on a body / emotion connection helps your child to recognize and
normalize uncomfortable and comfortable feelings and begin to learn to regulate them
Books to support the teaching of this strategy:
How Are You Peeling? Foods With Moods by Saxton-Freymann:
Used at any elementary grade level to talk about feelings and in what situations they
come up. It is also helpful for naming feelings and having kids generate more names for
the same feeling.

Scaredy Squirrel books by Melanie Watt:


Used in any age elementary classroom to kick off the discussion of feelings and how
they are common to all of us. The feelings discussed relate to friendship, night fears and
trying new things.
Double Dip Feelings by Barbara S. Cain, M.S.W.
A good book to discuss that having more than one feeling about a situation is normal.
2. Second Strategy Learn to breathe to relieve uncomfortable feelings (pages 49
to 54).
Teach calm breathing (pages 49 to 54), or square breathing as below.
Explain that square breathing is used both by athletes and the military to calm them
before or during times of great stress and allow them to make good decisions. (Talk
about the brain connection) They are taught to do this by their coaches or superiors.
The action students take is to make a square in the air with their finger as they breathe
in and out as follows:
1. Children point their index finger in the air and to the count of four lift it vertically and
breathe in deeply at the same time.
2. They then move their finger horizontally to the count of four while they hold their
breath.
3. They then breath out as their finger descends vertically to the count of four.
4. They then move their finger horizontally to the count of four back to the beginning
while they hold their breath.
After they have practiced once or twice, it might sound like this Here we go fingers
pointed breathe in two three four, hold two three four, out two three four, hold, two,
three four. It needs to be done a minimum of three times. It is good to let students know
that they can use this strategy and draw the square on their hand or on their leg or
anywhere unobtrusive to help them remember to breathe when they are angry or
worried.
Other breathing techniques that accomplish the same calming result are described on
page 55.
Practice daily!!
A Boy and a Bear by Lori Lite:
This book teaches breathing to younger students K-3 and can be used as the kick off to
teaching and practicing calm breathing.
3. Third Strategy: Learn to physically relax (pages 57 to 71)
There are several scripts on progressive muscle relaxation for the students to practice
(pages 65 to 71). Reading relaxation books to younger children can be helpful while
having them practice with the story.
Teach attention training (becoming more mindful and aware page 71). This is often
done with a chime or other focus instrument.
It is important to let students know there are many ways to relax. Elicit responses from
them as to what they now do that helps them. Examples might include exercise, music,

playing with a pet etc. Discourage video games or TV prior to asking for other ways to
relax. See other ideas included in the relaxation section of this book.
Practice Daily!!
Angry Octopus by Lori Lite:
This is an excellent book to introduce the strategy of progressive relaxation.
appropriate for ages K-4.

It is

4. Fourth Strategy Self talk Learn to change negative to positive thoughts;


unhelpful thoughts to helpful thoughts; or red light thinking to green light thinking
and use positive self talk. (pages 73 to 107).
Have students share examples of their thoughts when they meet worrisome or anger
provoking situations and what they could think instead that might be more helpful. Share
your experiences and use of this strategy and have them practice daily. Enlist your
helpful thoughts of other children to help one student solve a difficulty. This is very
powerful.
Games to teach this skill can include using dollar store items that are red and green. A
red balloon, ball or bean bag can be tossed, a red thought shared, then a green balloon,
ball, or bean bag sent after it. A green thought replaces the red thought and the red item
is tossed away to another student where the game continues.
Kids love the light sabers you can buy (grade 7s too), the green thought saber
challenging the red thought saber. Green dice can be tossed and as many green
thoughts as are numbered on a dice roll can be given for one red thought. A bark only
tree can be constructed on a bulletin board, and the leaves formed by the students who
record their positive thoughts.
A green bucket can be used to store positive thoughts that kids come up with.
Practice Daily!!
Unstoppable Me and Affirmation Weaver by Lori Lite:
This is a helpful book to introduce positive self-talk.
5. Fifth Strategy Make coping cards and coping step plans. (pages 111 to 129).
Students will all benefit from developing their own strategies and affirmations and writing
them on a small card to be taped to their mirror at home, put on their desk, put in their
pocket or all three. Facing their fears by breaking down a worrisome situation into small
steps is very useful. This is an amazing lifelong strategy once kids are able to develop
and use it.
Scaredy Squirrel books by Melanie Watt:
These are good story books with lots of humour to use as examples of how to build a
coping step plan.
6. Sixth Strategy Problem solving. (pages 131 to 137)
Every school now has Second Step for their grade level. Problem solving strategies are
taught and reinforced through picture cards and lessons. This is one of the most

valuable skills you can give your students. Once they are able to do these strategies
independently, they will be able to work out problems with each other following the
pattern taught. It is a good idea to have a card with the steps on it and a problem
solving area for them to go to. They can be asked to take the card to this location and
follow the steps to solve their problems. How to use this process can be taught and
practiced during a class meeting where everyone generates solutions for a problem, one
is chose, and the result reflected on at the next meeting. It is a great tool for students
and the teacher, who then has time to teach, rather than be problem solver. Copies of
Problem Solving and What To Do When You are Angry are attached. Second Step
is an evidence based resource effective in teaching social/emotional learning to children.
The key to building skills and resilience is daily continued practice of the skills
taught, integrated throughout the day.
Sorry by Trudy Ludwig:
This is a book designed to help kids look at what is needed when they or another has
created a problem, and the solutions that might work.

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Breathing Techniques
1. Square Breathing: (combat breathing, tactical breathing): Breathe in for four
counts, hold for four counts, exhale for four counts, hold for four counts. Start again.
2. Diaphragm Breathing: Inhale, and exhale, counting to four. On your next inhale,
bring your arms up so that by the time you reach 4, your hands will be above your
head. Exhale and gradually bring your arms back down to your sides by the time
you reach 4. The movement of your arms will help promote a diaphragm
movement while you breathe. Keep working on it. When you feel comfortable, add
a 1-2 pause when your lungs are full and when they are empty.
3. Elevator Breathing: Inhale for 2 exhale for 2 inhale for 2 exhale for 4 inhale
for 2 exhale for 6, etc.
4. Belly Breathing: Place your hand, palm down over your belly. As you inhale feel
your hand rising as your belly expands. Exhale and feel your hand lower as your
belly falls.
5. Balloon Breaths: Deep slow breath in exhale through the mouth as though blowing
up a balloon.
6. Anger to Awesome: Inhale through the mouth gathering in all of the anger exhale
slowly through the nose releasing relaxation and peace.

Why does it work?The breath is one of the few actions that reside in both our
somatic nervous system (which we can consciously control) and our autonomic system
(which includes our heartbeat and other actions we cannot easily access). So the
breath is a bridge between the two. (Lt. Col. Dave Grossman On Combat)

Are You Breathing From the Chest or Diaphragm?If you're curious about
your current breathing habits, here's a quick test you can take that will immediately tell
you what kind of breather you are. You need to stand in front of a mirror and be able to
check your shoulder movement as you breathe.

Find the lower end of your sternum and place both your index fingers about 2 cm
(1 inch) from the end of your sternum. Your index fingers should be lightly
pressed against your chest and the tips in line with each other and barely
touching. Inhale normally. Exhale normally. Look at your shoulders as your
breathe. Did they move up and down? Did your fingers come apart?
If your fingers stayed in contact and your shoulders moved, it's a clear sign that
you are not breathing deep enough to maximize the benefits of breathing. You
should work on your relaxation breathing techniques.
Now leave your fingers there and breathe as deeply as you can while mentally
thinking about your diaphragm. Notice if your chest pushes the fingers further
away. Ideally, your shoulders should not be involved when you breathe.

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ANXIETY AND LEARNING: WHAT DO WE NEED TO KNOW??


Why do parents and teachers need to pay attention?
Often, anxious children are impaired in their learning due to higher rates of absenteeism and lower rates
of participation in classroom and extracurricular activities. Children also suffer from impaired
interpersonal development both with peers and with non-family adults because anxious behaviors
discourage interaction. These effects are too often parlayed in later adolescence and adulthood to more
severe anxiety disordered behaviors, depression, substance abuse, higher rates of medical utilization, low
rates of post secondary completion, lower income levels and loss of employment. School-based research
of children who suffer from all serious emotional disorders reveal that less than a third receive help.

What can parents and educators do to help?


First, if you suspect that your child may be suffering from an anxiety disorder, contact your local
physician and express your concerns. Be specific about your suspicions, and suggest the professional
consider evaluating your child for an anxiety disorder. Ask if a referral to a Pediatrician or Pediatric
Psychiatrist is warranted.
Become informed. Anxiety is widely misunderstood, especially in children. You need to be an informed
consumer of mental heath services.
The family and the school are very important keys to helping a child learn to control anxiety. Each has
the potential to help or hinder a childs response to treatment, and therefore needs to be part of the plan
for helping the anxious child. Identify those times and situations that amplify the problem and make a
concrete plan to help support the child during those times. Ensure one specific person is responsible for
follow through and evaluate the plans effectiveness consistently. Close communication between school
and home is important, develop a communication strategy that everyone involved can execute relatively
easily.

How can a qualified therapist help my child?


Licensed psychologists are highly qualified to diagnose and treat anxiety disorders. Parents of children
suffering from these disorders should seek a provider who is competent in cognitive and behavioral
therapies specific to treatment of children. A Play Therapist with experience in CBT methodology can
help your child by utilizing toys and the childs own language to address the problems. Experienced
mental health professionals have the added benefit of having helped other children recover from anxiety
disorders.

How can a therapist support my childs learning?


It is very important to understand that treatments for anxiety disorders do not work instantly and are most
effective when incorporated into a wide range of your childs environment. The schools cooperation is
crucial, and there must be a strong sense that the whole support network are collaborating as a team to
remedy the anxiety disorder. This puts children at a higher degree of ease. Ensure your childs therapist
provides specific and clear instructions on anxiety reduction strategys that can be adapted to the school
setting.
No one educational plan works well for all children with learning disabilities and anxiety. The
educational approach needs to be tailored to the needs of the child and to the type of anxiety disorder.
Adjustments to the plan are sometimes necessary, since children respond differently to treatment and
checking in regularly to keep an eye on success is always a good idea.

Handout compliments of Michele Kambolis ( www.childinfo.ca ) (Adapted from BC Childrens Hospitals


Mood and Anxiety Clinic and the Anxiety Disorders Association of BC. The full pamphlet series can be found at
www.anxietyby.com
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Annotated Bibliography for Resilience Kit


Affirmation Weaver: Ages 6 8: A Believe in Yourself Story Laurie Lite -- Self
esteem, how to believe in yourself. Teaches affirmation creation Strategy 1.
A Boy and a Bear: Lori Lite: Ages 5 7: Teaching relaxation and breathing strategies
to children Strategies two and three
A Boy and a Turtle: Lori Lite: Ages 5 7: Relaxation story kids can practice as they
listen to the story: Strategies two and three
Angry Octopus Lori Lite: Ages 5 9 Teaches self calming strategies and relaxation:
Strategies two and three
Connecting With Students: All ages: Alan Mendler :For teachers working with any
student. Gives positive strategies for building relationships with students.
Double dip Feelings: Barbara S. Cain: Ages 5 9. Children experience two feelings at
once and begin to understand their own feelings: Strategy one
David and the Worry Beast: Anne Marie Guanci: Ages 5 - 10: How to recognize and
manage anxiety: All strategies,.
How Are You Peeling: Ages 5-12: Saxton Freymann: Kids love this book as it
connects to both food and feelings. Teachers can use it with all ages as a kick off to
recognizing feelings and creating feeling lists and books. Strategy one.
My Secret Bully: Ages 8-10: Trudy Ludwig: A story about being verbally and socially
bullied, the resulting feelings and strategies that can be helpful in dealing with bullying.
Scaredy Squirrel Books: Melanie Watt: Ages 6-11 An anxious, somewhat obsessive
squirrel develops coping plans and learns what works. Strategies four, five, six.
Simons Hook: Ages 7 12: A wonderful book that helps kids deal with teasing and
put downs, giving various strategy possibilities.
Sorry: Trudy Ludwig: Ages 7 - 11: A young boy uses sorry as an ongoing way to solve
conflicts and probems he creates. He finds out that just saying sorry does not work.
Apologies have to come from the heart and include restitution: Strategy six
Strong Students Books: Ken Merrell: For teachers of grades K-8: Wonderful lessons
related to building resiliency: All Strategies
The Incredible Five Point Scale: Kari Dunnburon, Mitzi Curtis: Ages 6-12.
Understanding social interactions and emotional responses: Strategies one to three

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The Social Skills Picture Book: Jed Baker: Ages 5 - 9 teaches specific social/emotional
skills. The accompanying CD is great for overhead work with the kids. It includes work
with most strategies, emphasizing play, emotion and communication
Unstoppable Me: Ages 5 9: Dr. Wayne Dyer: Focuses on building resilience and
can be used with any strategy.
What to Do When Books (3) Dawn Hubner: Ages 6-12: Strategies for each concern
grumbling, temper and worry: All strategies included
When My Worries Get Too Big: Kari Dunn Buron: Ages 5-9. Can be used for
relaxation, feeling intensity and as a companion to the Incredible Five Point Scale. Is
useful for reinforcement of all strategies.

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