‘Childhood Anxiety and What To Do About It’.
Victoria Yuen BTch. 500Hr YTT.
If you have a child that has anxious times, know that you are not alone.
20% of children and adolescents will be affected at some point in their lifespan.
Anxiety will present itself in a variety of unique ways, just as your child is unique. Sometimes our precious ones can be very quiet or ‘shy’ other times anxiety will present itself as disruptive behaviour.
Either way, it’s best if this response is acknowledged at a young age so that we can help them grow into non-anxious adults.
Anxiety CAN be successfully managed.
As parents, we play an essential role in helping our children with these behaviours.
Knowledge is the key.
What does anxiety mean and what are the different types of anxiety?
It is a fear or distress at being away from the family.
Separation anxiety is developmentally appropriate up until the age of 2, with sometimes being more prevalent than others. Once the kids get older, this anxiety should lessen, and they start to understand object permanence after five months and also know that their family is going to remain safe when they are away from them.
Refusal to go to school.
Saying they are sick at school and wanted to go home.
Anxiety about sleepovers or school camps.
It is seen when they seem to avoid or intensely fear a particular object, event or situation.
This goes beyond a small level of shyness. These children are anxious about what others think of them.
Avoidance of speaking in public.
Avoidance of social interaction.
Generalised Anxiety Disorder
This is diagnosed when children have excessive and unrealistic worries about a broad range of possibilities.
They may worry about things that might happen,
about their past behaviour,
worry about how good they are at their schoolwork
Worry how popular they are.
They often lack conﬁdance and need a lot of reassurance.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
This may develop following a traumatic event such as being in a serious accident, experiencing a life-threatening event or witnessing extreme violence.
Changes in sleep pattern,
irritability and problems with concentration.
Maybe mental ﬂashbacks and re-experiencing of the event.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
OCD is when the child is affected by persistent unwanted thoughts, often about dirt or germs, or sometimes a need for symmetry.
The child feels compelled to repeat a particular action, such as washing his or her hands or repeated counting.
Older children usually recognise that the thoughts and behaviours do not make sense even though they are driven by them.
Anxiety can lead to school refusal. When children refuse to go to school as a result of anxiety, it is usually accompanied by physical complaints, such as stomachaches or headaches.
Anxiety can present itself in a variety of ways, some of these can include:
• Chest pain or discomfort
• Discomfort or pain in the stomach, nausea
• Dizzy, lightheaded, or unsteady feelings
• Feeling foggy, or like things are unreal or a feeling of being detached from oneself
• Feeling very hot or cold
• Feelings of a lump in the throat or choking
• Numbness or tingling
• Rapid heart rate
• Rapid breathing (hyperventilating), feelings of shortness of breath, or breath holding
• Trembling or shaking
All of these physical ailments are the result of the fight, flight or freeze response.
This is a safety mechanism that our bodies produce to get ourselves out of dangerous situations.
What we need to do is to recognise these physical traits when they happen and know how to counteract them.
Anxious children will try to avoid these stressful situations so they don’t have to worry about them. They don’t learn HOW to deal with them in an age-appropriate way. Avoidance can be habit-forming and doesn’t teach the resilience and coping skills that the child needs.
Supporting your child at home
‘If your child shows signs of anxiety, there are some general strategies you can try at home.
If your child is being treated for anxiety by a professional, you should discuss these strategies with that person first.
• Acknowledge your child’s fear – don’t dismiss or ignore it. Let your child know you’re there to support and care for him.
• Gently encourage your child to do the things that she’s anxious about. But don’t push her to face situations she doesn’t want to face.
• Wait until your child actually gets anxious before you step in to help.
• Praise your child for doing something he’s anxious about.
• Avoid labelling your child as ‘shy’ or ‘anxious’. Try to refer to her as ‘brave’ or a similarly positive term. After all, your child is trying to overcome her difficulties.
• Try to be a good role model for managing your own stress and anxiety.’ www.anxietybc.com
So, now that we know what is all is,
let’s figure out what we can do about it.
Take some time out.
It’s OK for our kids to be sometimes bored.
We need to give our people time to process their lives and use creative imaginary play; this includes older children.
Over scheduling their timetable can be distressing for you both.
As soon as our babies are born, we start to over-stimulate them, thinking we are doing the right thing.
We need to give them opportunities to have down time.
Some suggestions are limiting screen time, playing soft relaxing music, encouraging lavender scented baths, using the Smiling Mind or Headspace App. Walking in nature, swimming, yoga, meditation or anything that allows them to clear their head.
Get back to basics, eat and sleep well.
Food that is natural, seasonal and non-processed are always the best. Making sure that no meals are skipped and having healthy snacks always handy to avoid high and low sugar levels.
Not letting our kids have high sugar or caffeinated drinks.
Knowing how much sleep the body needs and making the room a quiet haven to rest well. No TV’s or phones in the bedroom. Limited electrical equipment, thick curtains, comfortable bedding and pillows, having an established sleep routine.
Know how to breathe.
Find breathing techniques that work for you. This will lower the blood pressure, calm the heart rate, bring you back to the present moment and allow you to make clear decisions. There are a lot on my YouTube channel.
Find a YouTube channel, TV show or person that allows you to have that really big belly laugh. Studies have shown that laughter adds joy to life, eases anxiety and fear, relieves stress, improves mood and enhances resilience.
Like they say “laughter is the best medicine.”
Encourage open communication from a very young age.
Listen how you speak about yourself in front of your kids.
Listen how they speak about themselves.
Have open communication with the school teachers, as they often see a different side to our kids.
Know their ‘love language’ and how they show their feelings. Each of us is different.
Model, model, model and model some more, in an authentic way.
Create a relaxed home.
Limit over stimulation before bedtime or stressful times, such as going to school.
Burn relaxing essential oils.
Play uplifting music.
Have nice down time areas.
Clear the clutter.Have quiet hobbies that don’t involve the screen, such as card making, Lego, board games, knitting, etc
Have quiet hobbies that don’t involve the screen, such as card making, Lego, board games, knitting, etc
Download meditations that you and your child really like.
Emotional Freedom Technique: EFT or Tapping
Relieves stress and anxiety by using your fingers to drum gently on energy meridians on the body.
This can be a tricky one when our children have social anxiety.
One way we could encourage them to be involved is to be involved ourselves and include them, perhaps volunteering at something you both resonate with.
Know your triggers.
This way you can prepare yourself with the breathing techniques or your own stress management tools.
Encourage your children to have supportive friends and family. Ones they don’t feel judged by and you know they will be unconditionally helpful. Having 5 is always a good idea, in case one of them isn’t available. This doesn’t have to be you.
There are many places you can go to seek help, some of them include:
KidsHealth – Helping kids handle worry
Raising Children Network – an Australian parenting website
Headspace – visit the website for help, support and information about young people and mental health
Kids in Mind – phone 3163 1640 (part of the Mater Child and Youth Mental Health Service)
Reach Out – a website designed to help improve the understanding of issues relating to mental health and wellbeing
Youth Beyondblue – phone 1300 224 636 (24-hour information and referral about depression and anxiety)
MindShift – an app designed to help teens and young adults cope with anxiety.
With love and light,
N.B.: Please note that I am not a medical profession. I speak from being a Mum for 11 years, 41 years of personal experience, 14 years teaching experience, nine years research, one years study in therapy for cancer, and ten years of helping people overcome their anxiety through yoga, meditation and mindfulness.
If you would like to purchase my ‘Calming Cards for Kids’ head over here: Calming Cards for Kids Card Deck