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I think lockdown has given many of us parents an opportunity to really get to know our children. I am the mother of two fairly confident and extrovert children but we have heard from so many parents how their children have enjoyed the opportunity to step back from social circles and group activities. They have rediscovered their inner introvert. And while it has not been a huge surprise, parents are now left wondering what will be on the other side.

Zoom classes can be some children’s worst nightmare, they feel exposed, there is a lot of noise and business. The more confident, extrovert children get stuck in while some children are left longing for some calm, feeling self-conscious or comparing themselves to others. As a parent, you think why make them miserable by putting them in that environment? Who knows what is the right course to take? Do you press on, encouraging them out of their comfort zone, face the battles in the hope they don’t find things so overwhelming on the other side of all this. Or do you play to their strengths and help them to embrace the subjects and skills that they excel in, finding confidence in their own field. You will have weighed it up and worked out what feels right, and parents really do know best!

For us, even as grown-ups, who are fairly used to the spotlight, Zoom and the process of making all these videos has been terrifying! There are so many things that can go wrong, internet connections, the new technology we don’t understand, our student’s parents are often in the background supporting them so you feel very under the spotlight and you panic about whether you are doing a good job, forgetting the routines, lyrics, etc. etc. But I think for both of us, we spend the whole day building up to it and it feels quite daunting and scary but once we ‘go live’, we are amongst friends, with the same fears and concerns and it all feels surprisingly comforting somehow – a little bit of normal in this different world.

So what does happen on the other side? Studies suggest that we all naturally sit at a certain level on the scale of shyness, happiness, anger… etc. So to a degree, we are programmed a certain way but it is accepted that there is also a lot of potential for change! And we do see this a lot at Star Steppers. Some very shy people learn how to deal with anxiety or discomfort in certain situations. And some kids, when surrounded by happy smiling people find more happiness and laughter themselves. I think that is why some of you have seen your children revert to their ‘normal’ confidence levels. At home, in the place where they are safe to just be themselves, they can revert to what is most comfortable for them. Once we come out the other side of lockdown our introverted friends will slowly but surely rediscover their more confident selves and Anna and I are very prepared for this. Many of them will be reluctant to return, they may find it overwhelming. But for those who we do have the pleasure of teaching on the other side, we look forward to helping them return to their more confident selves. Star Steppers has always been a safe community of people, who are willing for each other to do well. We never force anyone into any situation they are uncomfortable with. It is always the child’s choice – yes we will obviously give them a pep talk when they need it but it is always up to them to take the big steps so they can experience the pride that comes with achieving what felt so unachievable just moments before.

When we feel overwhelmed it is usually for one of four reasons…

1) Bad Outcome – You are worried about a negative outcome.

2) Uncertainty – You are unsure what you are letting yourself in for.

3) Lack of Knowledge – You are worried you won’t have the answers or skills.

4) Racing Thoughts – Your mind has gone into overdrive.

So how do we overcome these thoughts and feelings…? Here are a few ways to help overcome nerves and anxiety…

Positive affirmations. If we can suss out where our concerns lie then we can try to find positive affirmations, which counterbalance the negative thoughts they are experiencing. Even if they don’t believe the affirmations at first they will still be thinking these positive thoughts instead of the negative ones! So for example ‘I am nervous that I will do something wrong or silly and everyone will laugh or look at me funny’. A positive affirmation for this could be ‘I am better and braver everyday’ or ‘I don’t care what anyone thinks, I am loved’. Remember not to write in the future tense – you must always write in the now ‘I will be..’ or ‘I am going to..’ is putting off what they need to be thinking now. If you google ‘positive affirmations’ you will find loads of resources and you can find the ones that feel most fitting.

Bring your mind to the now. Focus on something – my drama teacher used to say close your eyes and focus on the red dot which sits centrally between your eyebrows. Or you can do breathing exercises – Something I often do is breathe in the colour white through my nose and breathe out the colour brown through my mouth. Breathing in positive, clean air and breathing out the negative air. Shifting your focus to the now lifts you out of a negative thought cycle.

Don’t fight the thoughts. Allow your feelings to come and go. In my mindfulness book it said to imagine your thoughts are clouds, they come and go and you have a choice which ones to focus on. Also remember that just because you have a thought, doesn’t make it true and it is also no reflection on you for thinking it. Everyone has negative thoughts.

Always be kind. Do things that make you feel good, do whatever you find comforting and uplifting. This will help you to rebalance your nervous system. Think about the activities (or maybe even people) that bring you most joy and contentment and make sure you build them into your day.

“Don't be fooled by my quiet exterior. It hides a wild mind and passionate heart.” John Mark Green

So in short – Don’t worry, be happy xx

Hannah Gunning

Author Hannah Gunning

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