Carolyne Jones (behavioural psychologist): Social Stories™ are another technique which is a story written from the child’s perspective of a particular situation or activity or event that they might find challenging. And the idea behind Social Stories™ is to outline to the child exactly what’s going to be happening. Who is going to be involved. What is expected from them in the situation so that they can have some time to prepare and be aware of what is going to be happening in that upcoming situation.
For example, if you are writing a Social Story™ about taking a trip to the shops you would have text throughout the story that you can read along with the child describing the situation. You can also use actual photographs of the places and the people involved within the story or you could use generic pictures or drawings of a shopping centre or a car.
And the idea behind the Social Stories™ is to prepare the child for the upcoming situation so that they know what’s going to be happening, in what order, with what people.
So one of the ways that psychologists can help children reduce their levels of anxiety is relaxation training. That can incorporate a variety of different techniques.
For younger children one of the ways that you can help them control their breath when they experience any anxiety. You could try teaching them to blow out candles with fingers representing their candles so they can blow down the candles. You could also teach them how to blow bubble breaths. So breathing as you do when you blow a bubble, that it has to be slowly controlled rather than quick and fast and by reducing their rate and pace of breathing, you can help their body to experience relaxation which will then help them…their anxiety levels to reduce.
Another form of relaxation training is progressive muscle relaxation which is where you progress through your body and tense and then relax the different body parts.
Progressive muscle relaxation helps to increase the person’s awareness of when they’re experiencing tension in their body and also how they can then relax that particular body part.
Another type of relaxation training for older children is imagery. So you can download scripts online for free of descriptions of a particularly calming relaxing situation that the child could listen to or you could read a script to the child or they could read a script about, for example, imagining them on a beach or lying in a meadow. And then picturing that in your mind during difficult situations to then feel more relaxed.
One way that you can help a child to be more aware of their emotions is talking about situations but talking about a difficult situation when the child is calm. So perhaps retracing the steps of a difficult situation earlier that day to be able to look back and see what was happening. Because it can be so difficult to do it in the moment. So practicing skills when the child is feeling calm and relaxed is a good way that you can then build up to using those skills in the actual situation itself.