In the moment
‘Worry’ doesn’t always look the same. Behaviours can include:
- Clinginess and/or upset (wearing the emotion honestly)
- Aggression or over-bossiness (trying to find some control in the situation),
- Avoidance, disengagement or defiance (trying to escape the situation) or
- Seeking attention from others, over questioning (attempts to find distraction and/or comfort from others).
But in the moment, gently reassure tamariki (but not too much), and either distract them with a task, ask them to work through breathing deep into their tummies (or ask the whole class to practice this in preparation for learning).
You're probably already doing all of this though! We believe it's important to normalise worry for all your students because sometimes tamariki are so good at hiding it - so good sometimes that we wouldn't even know they were struggling! Besides this, everyone worries sometimes, so it's good to know when we do, it's normal. The other thing is that our 'worriers' often don't want to be singled out, this can be just another reason for them to worry more, so approaching 'worry' as a topic across your class is a great idea.
So tomorrow, try:
To kōrero with all your students:
Let them know that you're working your way through some Sparklers activities around wellbeing, and it's suggested that as a part of this we understand our emotions.
NB - this is actually a great thing to do to help your tamariki with their emotional literacy and regulation. Look through the other emotions we discuss, or head here for activities with this very focus!
Let your tamariki know that worrying is normal we all do it, because it’s actually necessary and mostly the right thing to do.
Worrying happens because of the time when our brains were first formed – think cave-person times - if a sabre toothed tiger is running at us should we worry? Yes! And it’s ‘worry’ that sends all the right messages from our brains to our bodies to prepare us to…. (ask tamariki what they’d do) – run, climb a tree, swim across the river or hide…! Great answers!
Draw a picture of a person and add in the body parts as they’re discussed – what needs to happen in our body for us to escape?
We need adrenaline – what does this do? Makes our heart pump faster, or breath becomes shallower, our muscles contract through our body – think about what happens for you during the athletics day sprints. Much the same thing.
And in terms of our brain, all we can think about is escaping the sabre-toothed tiger, so this huge outside area of the brain shuts down a bit (cortex) – and especially this bit at the front of our brain (prefrontal cortex) because in moments when we’re really, really worried, we don’t need them. We just need lots of adrenaline to run or hide really fast!
One of the things that’s happened though is our world has changed really, really quickly since cave person times.
- Perhaps try plotting a timeline from when sabre-toothed tigers existed, till now.
Think about all the change that’s happened – even just in the last 300 years. Add in vehicles, technology, loss of dangerous animals in our backyards! The world is actually safer, but have our brains have had a chance to catch up? – No. Evolution takes hundreds, if not thousands of years. This means that sometimes our brains and bodies react like there’s a sabre-toothed tiger in the room, even though there isn’t. So it's normal to over-worry sometimes.
What experiences can make us worry so much our brains peskily release adrenaline when we don’t need it?
- Starting something new
- Standing up in front of people or being noticed
- Meeting someone new
- New places
- Lots of noise
- Lots of people
- Being in big open spaces
- Having a big test or assignment
- Not being with people we love
Lots of things can make us worry and cause our brains to release adrenaline when we don’t actually need it. It’s a pesky thing for sure, and can actually be really scary.
Explain that sometimes when this happens we do things that aren’t very helpful e.g. become angry and defensive, or disengage… things that aren’t fun for us, or for anyone!
Let tamariki know that there are some things we can learn to help re-engage our whole brain and stop the release of adrenaline when it’s not needed. We know that it’s our brain that’s decided there is a sabre-toothed tiger in the vicinity, so we need to let our brain know, that this time, it’s got it all wrong! The way we do this is through breathing right down into the base of our tummies and engaging our Vagus Nerve. This is weird, but amazing, because if we do this, breathe deeply, then it tells our brain to calm down. And the best thing is it’s scientific! We know it works!
Try Tummy Breathing or we love these printable breathing exercises which allow tamariki to choose the technique that suits them best.