Do you find it odd to see the words anxiety and children in the same sentence? Do you perceive children are not supposed to be anxious and childhood is about freedom from stress and worry? Yet, children of all ages do experience anxiety, some more than others.
Let’s ponder why kids experience anxiety when they’re supposed to play, have fun and use their energy to learn lots of things. Many young kids experience separation anxiety – they get anxious when separated from a significant figure like a mom. Kids can also get anxious about going to bed, sleeping on their own, walking into school by themselves, facing the challenges of socialization and acceptance or rejection by friends, performance in school, getting chosen for a sports team, facing a bully at school, fitting in, monsters…. the list can go on and on. Anxiety can be debilitating and overwhelming for kids of all ages.
Why do they experience anxiety with the challenges they face?
Because they don’t have the life skills, ability or self-belief that they can handle it. They plainly just don’t know how to handle it and they look for a parent, teacher or someone more equipped to rescue and help. They feel vulnerable, helpless and out of control. It leads to an increase of beta brainwave activity in their brains, they start to breath more shallow and their heartbeats start to raise. Their bodies follow the perceptions of their minds that they can’t handle it and they’re useless and hopeless.
How do you know your child is anxious?
Anxious kids show it openly and you don’t have to guess. They become clingy, needy, demanding, unhappy, resistant and overdependent on you. Their bodies show their stress in many forms from facial ticks to a compressed body posture with shoulders hanging. This is true for kids of all ages, including your teens. They battle with sleep, can chew their nails, eating habits can change, they loose coping skills and you become anxious yourself with your child’s inability to cope and get on with life. You do feel your own anxiety level rise and you become equally overwhelmed by your child’s inability to cope. Your desire to rescue increases and your inability to make it better for your child makes you panic.
How can you help?
Empower yourself instead of panicking.
Accept your wonder-child is not perfect and has inabilities to cope with their life. It’s not a reflection of you and it’s not an accusation of bad parenting. It’s feedback that your child is at the cusp of a transformation and is facing the opportunity to grow in personal strength, resilience, self-dependence and the ability to self-smooth. You must agree these are attributes you wish for your child. You can help by firstly empowering yourself rather than panicking. I have developed the following mindset when my own precious kids experienced and will continue to experience anxiety with their challenges – my one side where my heart is, breaks into millions of pieces and my other side says “yes!”, life is giving them the opportunity to learn valuable life skills and make them stronger, more emotionally intelligent, more resilient and more self-reliant. Only with this mindset can you step out of your rescue mode and can you step into your “believe in your child” and “believe in your ability to model life skills” mode.
Ensure the family dynamics are contributing to a climate of support and Dad & Mom are in a good husband & wife relationship.
Take your child’s anxiety as the opportunity to strengthen relationships. If you’re a single parent ensure you surround yourself with support. You know the saying “it takes a village to raise children”. Surround your anxious child with caring support, guidance, and conversations. Speak to the village – other parent, grandparents, uncles, aunts, siblings, teachers and send the message out for support. Go the extra mile and invest in consulting with a psychologist or children’s coach. Learn how to read the message of your child’s anxiety and learn how to empower your child and yourself as the parent. Make it a teachable moment of learning how to make an unsafe world safe again.
Call on support.
Parenting is not supposed to be a lonely journey where you have to do it all. It’s a journey of self-discovery, self-empowerment, acquiring new skills as your kids develop and learning to ask for help and calling in support. Anxiety in children is real and needs real interventions and proactive action steps. If you feel stuck and you’re calling for support, you’re at the right place.
Send me an email and share with me your concerns about your child’s anxiety and let me offer a form of support and or guidance. As a psychologist, I have seen hundreds of anxious kids over the past 30 years, working with families. I can just light the torch for you so you will know which step to take.
It takes a village to raise children.