F.R.I.E.N.D.S - Kids & Anxiety

Now there are three different versions of F.R.I.E.N.D.S. "Fun F.R.I.E.N.D.S" for kindergarten and grade1; "F.R.I.E.N.D.S for Life" for grades 4 & 5; and "F.R.I.E.N.D.S for Youth" for Grades 6 & 7.
Photo Attribution: 
Cécile Graat

One major problem with our mental health system is that there is a lack of communication. Resources are available but we don't know they exist so we don't access them. One of these resources is the F.R.I.E.N.D.S. Program. A program designed to teach our children about anxiety, feelings, coping and resiliency in the classroom and at home. Sounds good right? It is.   

So what is F.R.I.E.N.D.S? Well here's the breakdown of the acronym:

F - Feelings

R- Relax

I - I can try

E - Encourage

N - Nurture

D - Dare to be brave

S - Stay happy

Now there are three different versions of F.R.I.E.N.D.S. "Fun F.R.I.E.N.D.S" for kindergarten and grade1; "F.R.I.E.N.D.S for Life" for grades 4 & 5; and "F.R.I.E.N.D.S for Youth" for Grades 6 & 7. The program was developed for use in schools by Dr. Paula Barrett, founder of Pathways.

Health and Research Centre in Brisbane, Australia and is a joint venture between the Ministry of Child and Family Development and the Ministry of Education, in cooperation with school districts, independent schools and First Nations Schools Association. Some schools are using this program but not all.

What do you do if your school isn't using it? Well, you can talk to your school about bringing the program in. It does require the staff being trained to implement the program. In the meantime, as a parent you can go online, read, watch, and download all the available material to use the program at home and start using the techniques at home. There's a lot of great information there.

What will you learn? I reviewed the "Fun F.R.I.E.N.D.S" program because I have a five year old - it was relevant to me. Some of my favorite concepts were milkshake breathing; red/green thoughts; and thumbs up/down feelings.

As a children's yoga instructor I'm always looking for fun ways of teaching children new breathing exercises; milkshake breathing is genius! At a time when the child is not upset or anxious, give a child a cup of water with a straw and ask them to take a deep breath and blow gentle bubbles in the water. Then ask them to see how long, in one breath, they can blow bubbles for. Can they
blow bubbles for a count of four? This gives them a visual on how deep a breath to take in and how slow they need to exhale in order to relax.

Red/Green thoughts are simply negative/positive self talk. I like this so much I'm going to use it with my adult friends just to lighten the mood and drive home the point that none of us benefit from negative self talk. Plus the more it's used the more it's reinforced for my son - win/win.

Thumbs up/down feelings are all about how we react to our feelings not the feelings themselves.

It reinforces that it's ok to be angry, upset or mad. Those are valid feelings. But it's not ok to yell, punch, slam doors or call each other names. A better solution is to take a deep breath, have some quiet time or any other constructive way to calm down deal with the feeling.

There is much more in the F.R.I.E.N.D.S program to discover on your own. I encourage every parent and grandparent to check it out. And if your school isn't offering it I encourage you to open up the discussion with your teachers and principal on getting it brought into your school. With the increase in bullying, anxiety in children is at an all time high. It's critical we teach our children about positive ways of coping and being resilient from as young as possible. By doing this we will build up our children to become emotionally and mentally stronger adults.

By Amanda Jennifer

There are three program levels available; Fun FRIENDS (K/Gr 1), Child (Gr 4/5) and Youth (Gr 6/7)  http://www.mcf.gov.bc.ca/mental_health/friends.htm