What Do Kids Have Anxiety About?
Kids typically develop anxiety about things like grades, tests, fitting in with friends, excelling in sports, the way they look, tension between their parents, being teased or bullied, separation from their parents, making mistakes and different types of peer pressure.
Know Your Child:
You are the best judge of your child. Watch for signs of anxiety. Watch for patterns, such as chronic complaints of illness.
For example: If your child is often complaining of a stomach ache, isolate and evaluate. Are the stomachaches primarily happening on school days or every day? Was there a test that day or a baseball game? If the stomachache is every school day, whether there is a test or not, try to find out what your child’s social situation is at school. The sooner you intervene and develop a plan, the healthier your child will be physically, academically and socially.
Know the Signs of Anxiety:
- Unusual clinginess (or fear of leaving your presence)
- Impulsiveness or distraction
- Nervous movements such as twitches
- Sleep problems, including difficulty falling asleep or sleeping longer than usual
- Sweaty hands
- Rapid heart rate and breathing
- Paleness or dizziness
- Self-criticism or low self-esteem
What You Can Do:
Be available: Try to plan your day so that when you are home with your child, especially at bedtime, you are available to engage them in conversation.
Be interested: Take an interest in what happened at school, daycare, or team practices. Casually and often, ask how things are going. And listen carefully – be prepared to read between the lines. Getting detailed responses often takes more probing with boys, so try to be specific in your questioning.
For example: rather than asking “How was lunch today?” you could ask “Who did you sit with at lunch today?”
Be responsive: By responding to your child with reassuring comments, your child will feel supported and understood. This feeling alone can alleviate anxiety for children. Reassuring comments are most effective after your child has had adequate time to express their feelings. Reassure your child that you understand how they feel and you understand the problem. Comfort your child with hugs or encouraging words, or extra time together doing something your child enjoys.
Teach Your Child the RELAX Acronym:
|R||emind yourself………….of all the things you are doing that might be making you feel anxiety.|
|E||xplain to your mom……what you are feeling and what might be causing you to feel anxiety.|
|L||ay out a plan…………….with your mom, to help you take control of the situation.|
|A||pplaud yourself…………whatever the outcome, because you are trying and will eventually succeed.|
|X||-hale, inhale………………breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose, and then breathe out slowly through your mouth. Do this 2 to 4 times to help you RELAX.|
Develop a Plan for Your Child’s Anxiety:
1. Performance anxiety – Children who are susceptible to performance anxiety are often perfectionists. They worry about their grades, pitching stats, piano performance, etc. The fact that they care and want to do well is a good thing. Giving them plenty of time to prepare will give them confidence and help them to feel in control. Avoid over-scheduling your child or yourself, as this will contribute to the anxiety.
2. Peer pressure anxiety – Children who are very social and verbal are more susceptible to anxiety from peer relations. They really care what others think about them and will feel hurt if they do not have the relationships they desire. You can help your child focus less on school relationships by providing opportunities for relationships outside of school. Clubs, sports, art classes, church youth groups, and visits with cousins can all be opportunities for your child to form friendships. For children who are less socially developed, these places will provide opportunities for your child to befriend someone who is the same developmental age – but not necessarily in the same grade.
3. General anxiety – Some children are just more timid and cautious. This can cause anxiety when they see other children jumping on roller coasters, eager to attend slumber parties or just being physical on the playground. They may not like the fact that they are so afraid but do not know how to overcome their fears. Sometimes these children will withdraw from other children for fear of being called “chicken”. Many children overcome these fears with age and once they’ve developed the ability to rationally understand why they should not be afraid. Until that time, support your child. If necessary, be the scapegoat for your child.
For example: If your child is afraid to spend the night out, let your child know you understand that they are uncomfortable with the idea. Tell your child they may go if they like until 10 or 11 o’clock but they are not allowed to spend the night, you want them home. If necessary, arrange to have an early morning activity so that your child may say “I can’t stay all night because my mom said I have to go to my sister’s soccer game early in the morning.” Be patient with your child and remind yourself that cautiousness can be a good trait. You will be thankful your child is cautious when they are 16 and driving around town without you, or when word gets out that some of those fearless childhood peers are taking dares and drugs for fun.
Know When to Seek Professional Advice:
If you child’s anxiety escalates, do not hesitate to seek professional help. Begin with your pediatrician. Early intervention is ideal for teaching healthy life skills to deal with anxiety.
© 2011 iMOM. All Rights Reserved. Family First, All Pro Dad, iMOM, and Family Minute with Mark Merrill are registered trademarks.