Anxiety is the most common challenge faced by children and adults alike.
And, if left unchecked, it can lead to debilitating problems that prevent children from reaching their full potential…
Sometimes anxiety is obvious but the symptoms can often be vague and develop gradually over time.
In fact, sometimes parents may not even be aware that a child’s difficulties are related to their anxiety…
Here are some examples of anxiety related symptoms:
- Physical symptoms such as tightness in the chest, a racing heart, shortness of breath, an upset stomach or sleep problems.
- Feeling overwhelmed, out of control or unable to cope with normal daily life.
- Intrusive worrying thoughts that “snowball”.
- Obsessive thoughts that focus on the same negative things over and over.
- Difficulty concentrating on normal everyday tasks.
- Compulsive and repetitive behaviour.
- Avoiding certain situations, people or environments (such as school, social events or certain classes).
- Frequent crying or seeking comfort from parents.
- Difficulty separating from parents.
- Excessive irritability, tantrums or angry outbursts.
- Periods of depression or prolonged negative moods.
If you have noticed any of these symptoms..
And have tried to help but feel as though you are “powerless” to do anything… or are only making things worse?
It’s important to keep in mind that having one or two of these symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean your child has a serious anxiety disorder…
We all experience some degree of anxiety from time to time. It’s part of normal healthy learning, growth and development.
But for some kids, anxiety can interrupt their learning and make it difficult to engage with friends and enjoy life…
So how can you help your child learn how to respond in a more adaptive and resilient way to anxiety?
Here are some basic steps that can help:
Step #1 – Identify the triggers
First, you need to find out what events or situations are triggering the anxiety.
For example, is it only at school in a certain class or activity or does it happen everywhere they go?
Separation anxiety? Social anxiety? Performance anxiety? Specific phobias?
Keep a diary of your child’s worries. Ask questions like…
- What were you doing when you felt anxious?
- What were you thinking?
- On a scale from 1-10 how bad was the feeling?
Step #2 – Learn to recognise negative thoughts
All of us are susceptible to automatically lapsing into negative thought patterns that have little-to-no basis in reality…
And these thoughts have a powerful influence on our emotions and stress levels.
Experiment with teaching your child how to become more aware of their own thoughts and to recognise when they are thinking negative thoughts.
And when they catch themselves slipping into negative thought patterns?
Ask them not to judge the thoughts or worry about them but instead to simply notice and be aware of the negative thoughts.
For example, “Oh, there’s that thought again…”
And then take a few slow, deep breaths…
Step #3 – Replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts
Replacing negative thoughts with positive thoughts helps to break the anxiety cycle.
For example, they might think:
“I am so nervous that everyone will laugh at me…”
Suggest replacing that thought with something like this:
“I KNOW I can EASILY do this because I have practised it so many times.”
Techniques such as repeating positive affirmations, mindfulness, breathing exercises and meditation can also be very helpful (depending on the age of the child).
Step #4 – Seek further help
There are always individual differences which means there is no single approach to reducing anxiety that works perfectly for everyone.
Some situations are simply more difficult than others. And some people are more susceptible to anxiety provoking events.
In these cases, an experienced psychologist can help by adapting strategies to suit the child’s specific situation and personality.
With better thinking, coping and relaxation skills and less anxiety, children can be free to learn, develop and fully enjoy life.
And if you are in Melbourne and would like some some extra help with this issue?
Click the button below to book your initial parent consultation and get the right advice for your child’s needs.