Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Can YouTube Prevent Anxiety in Children?

One of my biggest parenting faults is that I do not prepare my children enough for things to come. It's funny that I do that because I have a fear of the unknown and planning ahead definitely reduces my anxiety. Unfortunately, I frequently fail to remember that my children are no different from me in that respect and thus I forget to meet this very important need. This can result in unwanted behavior ranging from locking their legs around my hips while trembling to a display of hyperactivity that is so bad, I can only describe it as human racquetball.

Soon we will be flying to Mexico for my brother's wedding which will be our one chance of having anything close to a real vacation. I am so excited to go even though there is no vacation from my job as Mom. For me, a few days of no cooking and no dishwashing is a big enough deal to celebrate. Additionally, it will be a trip of "family firsts" in many ways: First airplane ride for Spencer, First family trip for the four of us, First wedding that we attend as a family, First time in Mexico for any of us, First time being a Ringbearer, First time being in a hotel for Spencer, First time going to a place where we'll be going to the beach everyday.... etc.

But "firsts" for my children don't always go so well so I have been trying to find ways to prepare them. My goal is to reduce their anxiety so they can enjoy themselves more. I am especially working on preparing Spencer because he seems to get scared in new environments sometimes (he's the leg-locker). I still don't quite understand what all the unwanted elements are that cause him to tremble with fear. Additionally, I know that he doesn't like sand which is problematic since we'll want to go to the beach everyday.

The boys are also supposed to be ringbearers at the wedding! I looked at my sister-in-law in disbelief when she told me that that was what she wanted. I was grateful but for her sake, I told her that it might not go as well as we want. She still wanted it and so I found a pillow in my house and sewed a ribbon with rings onto it to have the kids practice before we get to Mexico. They seem to do okay but I know for sure that Logan has a hard time performing for a crowd so I'm crossing my fingers.

I want them to have the best vacation ever but I know it won't be so easy. All I can do is prepare them, right? The rest is up to them. In my search to find ways to better prepare them, I have found YouTube to be very helpful.

Type in "kids play sand beach" and BOOM - scores of videos of young children playing and laughing in the beach are available with just a click. They are almost always short and some even have been edited with music which makes the video even more appealing to our little Spencer. What's more crazy is that you can scan the videos in advance and create a playlist so that you have your "lesson plan" all ready to go when they watch. This way, I don't lose their attention to an unexpectedly boring video.

An added plus is that these videos are all videos of typical children doing typical things and that's actually more educational for me. For the ringbearer videos, I saw a few blunders that were refreshing to watch because I'm not able to see typical children's behavior in settings other than the neighborhood playground. Thus, if Logan and Spencer create a mini-disaster down the aisle, I will likely not feel so bad after seeing the blunder videos on YouTube. On the flip-side, these videos are another way that my children are able to learn from typical children which is great since their opportunities to be with them are limited.

Recently, Logan who has been practicing walking slowly with a pillow, saw a video of a ringbearer walking down the aisle in a crowded church. Within seconds of starting the video, he started to speak jibberish and squirm which is something he does when he feels overstimulated or anxious. I could tell that he now understood what his role was and I'm glad he got a chance to feel the tension before the big day. Hopefully, it has helped prepare him for his own walk.

To be sure, YouTube does not replace real-live experiences but I believe it can be effective in helping me to prepare my children for challenging situations when I can't always give them a "walk-through" in advance ie. plane rides. The children in these videos can serve as models but even in a sensory processing perspective, these videos are hard to beat. How else would they hear audio like the sounds of waves crashing and noisy airplane engines? With just one click, we get all those sounds combined with moving visuals and appropriate models- all FOR FREE in my own home! YouTube, you are my new best friend!

Video: For this post, I chose this video of Spencer and I practicing turn-taking because it was short and sweet. However, I found another asset of videos for this family: measuring short-term progress. This video was only taken three months ago but I can see now that his speech has improved because I know that if we did the same exercise today, he would definitely be talking through it. His favorite phrase these days is "My turn!"


Karen Griffith Gryga said...


What a great idea! I have used pictures and picture books (I create photo books on Shutterfly of past activities to help him address situations that are most anxiety creating!) a lot in the past but have never used YouTube. Creative moms come up with all of the best ideas!

Thanks for sharing.


Penny Williams said...

what a great idea!

Kathleen Christensen said...

Great idea ... and great video! I'm cracking up! Your son is adorable.

Flower-girl story: When my ex and I got married, my niece, then age five, was our flower girl. I'd say she's on the typical spectrum. My sister went over my niece's role with her, and she did great when we rehearsed and when we walked down the aisle.

But we had forgotten to mention that her active role would then be over and that she'd be expected to just sit and watch from then on. She wanted to continue sprinkling rose petals! After a period of whiny protest from her, my sister gave her a camera, and she shot one of the best pictures of the bride and groom!

Melanie said...

I used a youtube video of a ring bearer to show tyler wedding and ring bearer concepts BEFORE my step son's big day. Went off without a hitch!

I also have various playlists for Tyler. (home made thomas the train videos, old mickey mouse cartoons, nursery rhymes).