Anxiety is a form of stress. This can be experienced in many different ways — physically, emotionally, and in the way children/adults see the world around them. Mostly anxiety can be worry about what might happen, things that could go wrong, feeling like you are in danger.
Anxiety is actually a natural human reaction and is an alarm system that activates whenever there is danger or threat! its the fight or flight response - the rush of adrenaline. The fight of flight response is an instant reaction to perceived danger, it takes the thinking part of your brain a few seconds more to evaluate whether it is 'real danger' or not and if you are not in real danger your body starts the calming down process. Now when anxiety becomes an issue it starts to take over day to day life, your ability to do 'normal' tasks, like school, social situations....the list goes on.
So how would you know if you child has anxiety, here are a few of the possible symptoms?
Now the issue is, children may not even be able to put a finger on their feelings and then even if they do, they may not want to tell you that they are worrying. They could fear letting your down, or thinking they are 'babyish' girls tend to express their feelings easier than boys. As I have said my son was diagnosed with anxiety very early on, he was a born communicator (started talking very early) but my first sign that he was suffering was that he stopped talking to me, he completely shut down, became withdrawn. This scared me more than anything! How can my boy who talked to me about everything become so within! He was pale, stressed.....then the symptoms escalated. At school if he didn't perform they would take him out of his class and shove him in another unfamiliar classroom.......which is the worst thing to do to any child, especially a sensitive child. This caused a major anxiety attack and in total fear and frustration he scratched himself!......Que tears, it's a very hard subject to think about let along write about.
Now obviously we all suffer from anxiety from time to time, but when it starts to control a child's life normally there is an anxiety disorder (a health provider would be able to confirm if this is the case for your child)
If any of the above relate then your child MAY suffer from an anxiety disorder. Our child had a professional diagnosis, but that’s individual and there are many different ways to help your child navigate anxiety. In the UK the NHS recommends a childline to discuss any issues Young Minds' free parent helpline on 0808 802 5544 * I have never called it as I went a different root.
What can you do to help?
According to the Anxiety Association of America they list the following to help your child.
· Pay attention to your child’s feelings.
· Stay calm when your child becomes anxious about a situation or event.
· Recognize and praise small accomplishments.
· Don’t punish mistakes or lack of progress.
· Be flexible, but try to maintain a normal routine.
· Modify expectations during stressful periods.
· Plan for transitions (For example, allow extra time in the morning if getting to school is difficult).
Personally for us we were recommended Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) which is talking therapies that can help your child manage their anxiety by changing the way they think and behave. Now we are currently undertaking this with a child psychologist, but I am also working at home to help our child create ways to navigate his anxiety and have really enjoyed THIS Book series, which are work books using cognitive therapy (my child’s therapist is aware and supports us using these books).
Overall with Anxiety and again I only talk from my personal experience is definitely not a one shoe fits all solution, but as with anything its looking at different tools to help your child navigate what is making him anxious, so that it’s not consuming him/her. For us this is a work in progress, CBT is helping but it’s slow! Reading the books helps and we have mini breakthroughs. I always feel reminded of the Shrek movie “We are like onions with many layers” so I keep peeling back the layers and working towards helping my little warrior to navigate this crazy world.
Here I list some good websites to learn more about child anxiety.
My name is Katie, homeschooling mum of two amazing kids (age 3 and 7), this blog is my musings - I am no way an expert in any subject but I have a passion for helping my kids to be all they can be. I didn't imagine myself being a teacher to my children - but after painfully witnessing my oldest (after a year in school) become withdrawn, anxious, stressed, negative and underweight due to his school environment, I pulled him out. Now I have a vibrant, happy, healthy and funny kid who loves learning again......have we fixed everything? NO but are we trying YES.