Current estimates are that 10% of children suffer from anxiety. I think it is more, mainly because anxiety is frequently misunderstood by parents and teachers. Anxiety is often mislabelled as laziness, stubbornness, shyness, defiance, anger, etc, because it sometimes looks like those. It can also look like ADHD.
I remember working with a family a few years ago. The child was extremely anxious. She would not go to the toilet or shower by herself in her own home. She would not do her homework. The parent said she was lazy. I asked ‘lazy or terrified?’ and the parent stopped in her tracks, and quietly said ‘terrified’. If your child’s anxious behaviours are disruptive and dysfunctional and limiting his/her quality of life, please get it treated. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is regarded as the best treatment.
Anxiety is a HUGE topic, but here are some tips for you…
Get it treated sooner rather than later. I prefer to see it treated by the age of 7 years. After that, the child starts to develop more fears and phobias and they pile up on top of each other. Untreated anxiety can lead to further and more severe mental health problems during adolescence and adulthood, and there is a greater risk of substance abuse. Western Sydney University has a low-cost psychology clinic.
Teach your child calming down skills such as deep belly breathing, positive self-talk, calming thoughts, and counting backwards. Practice calming down skills daily and reinforce the use of calming down skills. Hint – a calming down skill is portable and soothing – it is not patting a puppy (can’t take a puppy to school), going for a walk (can’t go for a walk whenever you feel like it), or punching a pillow (keeps you in ‘fight’ mode).
Pay attention to brave behaviours (rather than the anxious behaviours).
If your child has to go somewhere such as a school excursion or camp, work out a plan with him or her for anticipated anxious moments and which calming skills s/he can use to get through those moments. Let the teachers know about the plan so they can walk your child through it if your child is in a panic. Do not rescue your child, remind him/her of the plan – anxiety is a negative feedback loop, the more you rescue the worse it will get.
Role model calm. If you are anxious, your child will be anxious.
I have some anxiety resources on the Hands, Hearts & Minds blog https://handsheartsminds.wordpress.com/anxiety-resources/.
Article Written + Submitted by: Narelle Smith (Family Worker) Nepean Community + Neighbourhood Services
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