Your Child and Anxiety
Kids are like Petri dishes, metaphorically and otherwise. They pick up viruses, track them wherever they go, and spread “the love” to families and friends as their little bodies are growing to develop a strong immune system. Metaphorically speaking, they are easily influenced, will pick up swear words or bad habits, possibly before the more “positive” types of attributes. They are sponges, just soaking up that world around them as those mirror neurons are being formed in their brains.
We adults are not perfect, so just breathe and remember you are doing your best with where you’re at and with what you’ve got. Got it? OK good! With living in an imperfect world, we suffer the consequences of having anxiety or depression from time to time. Perhaps this is not the case with you, yet you are the sheer witness of your child manifesting these fears, worries, behaviors and otherwise, and you, as a parent feel so out of control as to what to do. Am I speaking your language? I hope so! I want you to feel supported in knowing:
A.) You are not alone in the battle. It may feel frustrating ,if not angering, that no matter how hard you try, what reinforcements or natural consequences you are implementing, it feels it does no good.
B.) This too, shall pass.
C.) There are some incredible resources out there to support you in this unknown territory.
First, let’s break down the types of symptoms or subtle cues your children are showing that may be a sign they are wrestling with anxiety or feelings of overwhelm specifically.
trouble sleeping or falling asleep
Avoiding new experiences
Unexplained physical complaints- i.e. multiple trips to the school nurse for little clear explanation
Getting into fights at school
Fidgeting, Skin Picking, or Restlessness
Over eating or under eating
Isolating or detaching with technology often: perhaps they are retreating to their room when guests or multiple family members arrive.
As adults, we may not be getting into physical fights at work. However, many of the symptoms or signs of anxiety in kids are similar in adults as well. We’ve just learned how to reign it in for sake of complying with societal norms. Kids have a bit less of a filter, which is one of the many reasons they are endearing, and they tell it like it is :).
Why the Anxiety?
Kids develop anxiety for varying reasons. It’s common for the root of anxiety to simply be in one’s genetic disposition. Some other reasons could be, unresolved trauma, social anxiety, bullying, being a perfectionist, self esteem concerns, being HSP (Hypersensitive Person) or perhaps anxiety is masking alternative diagnoses such as ADHD, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, or PTSD. Whatever the reason, it varies from person to person, and is unique to each kiddo.
So what can you do to help?
Counseling really allows children and parents to help get to the root of anxiety or if nothing else, how to cope better and decrease its effects. This is especially true if the anxiety is interfering with healthy relationships, and allowing them to flourish. If the anxiety is interfering with a child’s school work, or they are avoiding school altogether, this is often a sign anxiety is ruling more than is allowed, and counseling may be a good intervention.
Making a visual calendar for your child, allowing them to feel safety and a sense of control in their world just in knowing the family schedule for the week.
Give them some quality time with you. Take even just 30 minutes to grab some ice cream, go to a festival or do some crafting. This helps with the bonding experience and letting your child know they have a consistent safe place to land. Having this built into your calendar or routine can be absolutely transformative!
Create a stress relief basket at home: the basket can consist of things like coloring books, a ball to throw around, a mindfulness exercise, a fidget spinner, or journaling paper. Having this will allow your child learn how to develop independence and responsibility over their emotions once you’ve taught them what anxiety or stress can feel and look like.