Dear Cathi:

My child is so stressed out. She is 9 and complains almost daily about stomachaches. We have taken her to a million doctors and ruled out every physical problem under the sun. Her doctors agree that this is likely just stress. I know they are right because it’s not just her stomach that bothers her. Lila also has trouble sleeping through the night. She wakes my husband and me nearly every evening in the middle of the night with one complaint or another. While her teachers report she is “totally fine” at school, happy, and well-behaved, we see another side of her. She gets upset really easily and literally wears us down with her pessimism.

She takes art at school which she enjoys and has taken a yoga class after school at our local community center, but she doesn’t seem to gain any lasting benefit from either class. I see on your website that Melanie Kantor, LCSW offers stress management groups for kids that use “yoga, mindfulness, art, and other creative therapies” to help children manage stress. But, how might a therapy group like this offer anything different for Lila than the classes she has already taken?

Would love to hear from you,

Concerned Parent

Dear Concerned Parent:

Thanks so much for your question. I understand your concern about Lila and your frustration that nothing you have tried has alleviated her stomachaches and trouble sleeping.

While there are certainly benefits of practicing yoga at home or at a yoga studio, at In Step we offer a therapeutic group for children. This ten-week group differs from yoga classes in its focus on mental health and how yoga can augment more traditional therapy for symptoms of anxiety. Our group leader, Melanie Kantor, LCSW is both a Certified Budding Yogi Teacher and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. This combination allows the therapist to marry her expertise in treating kids’ mental health concerns with the complementary treatments of yoga and mindfulness to help kids who have stress trapped in their bodies feel better, gain insight into their emotions, and express their feelings and concerns. Art is also used to help children express their feelings in ways their words do not allow them to. Whereas yoga and art classes at school or community centers are intended as enrichment classes, this group is intended to treat symptoms of anxiety and depression. Yoga, art, and mindfulness are the tools being used, not the end goal, so there is no emphasis placed on creating “good” art or achieving perfect alignment in specific yoga poses. The driving force of this group is to improve the ability of clients to express and cope with strong emotions during stressful times. The therapist provides individualized attention, planning, and care based on the mental health needs of each group member.

In learning yoga and mindfulness practices, as well as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy-based strategies, children can learn to take ownership of their own well-being. They can learn to know when they are stressed, worried, depressed, angry, overwhelmed, or anxious, express this in appropriate ways, and manage these feelings in ways that don’t hurt themselves or others.

We hope to see Lila in group this fall!