When Childhood Anxiety Sends You Running for Cover
Anxiety can ruin a peaceful day.
Are your child's worries and fears getting to you?
Are you afraid your child might be suffering from anxiety?
What's the difference between normal anxiety and an anxiety disorder?
Isn't everyone anxious from time to time?
How do you know if it's an anxiety disorder or just a temporary, passing feeling of nervousness?
Everyone feels anxious from time to time. To feel anxious occasionally is common. Anxiety is a feeling of unease, often about a future event or something with an uncertain outcome. You might know you're feeling anxious because you feel shaky or your heart is beating a bit faster than usual. You notice your thoughts are worried and you're not as sure of yourself as you usually are. It's common to feel anxious before a test, or when you're making an important decision, or when you get up to give a speech for the first time. Occasional feelings of anxiety and nervousness are a normal part of the ups and downs of life.
An anxiety disorder is a whole other matter. A pattern of anxious feelings and symptoms that don’t go away and get worse over time is what professionals call an anxiety disorder. It's considered a pattern when the feelings and behavior last more than two weeks.
The symptoms of an anxiety disorder interfere with a person’s ability to do things they normally do. Schoolwork and relationships suffer. There are a variety of different types of anxiety disorders each with their own way of showing up and progressing over time.
When you hear someone say they have anxiety, they’re usually referring to an anxiety disorder rather than a passing feeling like what we all experience.
Have you noticed? Have some or all of these things lasted for more than 2 weeks?
Your child is worried about things that might happen in the future.
Does your child ask questions about what's going to happen? What could happen? What if? Does your child need frequent reassurances about what's next?
Does he prefer to opt out of fun childhood activities?
Would your child prefer to sit out of activities other children are enjoying participating in? Does she say no to invitations to join in with the other kids? Does she protest having to go out and be a part of something that you think would be fun?
Does your child have a meltdown when you try to insist that she should give something a try?
You believe your child will have fun. He might even have indicated a desire to try something. But when the time comes, your child becomes an emotional mess and insists you can't make him do it. All your attempts to encourage your child result in more tears and protests.
Does your child have headaches or tummy aches?
Are these headaches and tummy aches not explained by a physical illness? Does she seem to get mysteriously better when you agree that she can stay home or doesn't have to do something? Are you feeling manipulated? Headaches, stomach aches, and even digesting troubles are a real physical reaction to excessive worry.
Are bribes and threats useless?
Anxious kids want to take advantage of the bribe you're offering them but unfortunately even the best bribe doesn't take away the worry, the sweaty palms, the shaky feeling, or the rapid heart rate for long. The fears return quickly and not getting the bribe or worse, suffering the consequence of your threat leaves them all the more anxious.
Is there anyone else in the family with an anxiety disorder?
Anxiety disorders seem to pop up more often in kids with a parent or grandparent who have an anxiety disorder. It's no one's fault. It's a statistic you can use to help you figure things out.
Does your child get upset about making mistakes?
Is your child disappointed if she can't get things just right? Does he demand perfection in his performance? Does she push so hard she makes herself sick? Does he overreact to frustration?
Anxiety disorders don't just go away. Kids don't outgrow an anxiety disorder. In fact, 80% of kids with anxiety disorders will not receive the help they need.
That's where I come in. I'm here to help. I'm Deborah Woods, National Board-Certified Counselor. I'm also a mom. I raised a son who struggled with an anxiety disorder. Now, he's all grown up and doing well. He's overcome his anxiety, has great people skills and handles his life with confidence. It was a long a difficult road for us until I found the solution.
We made it. You can too.
Our challenges drove me to find answers for my son, for myself, and for the families I help. Along the journey, I discovered that moms could help their anxious kids avoid the years of struggle, the trial and error, my family experienced as I searched for answers.
I found an incredible way to empower kids to be happy and to flourish in a world that can be stressful and anxiety producing.
I discovered that the trade secrets of people like Virginia Axline and Garry Landreth could open up a world of new possibility for my son, a world where he would be a confident leader, able to bounce back from stress and flourish under pressure. The trouble was, these secrets were locked up in the ivory towers of academia and not available to me as a mom when we needed them so desperately.
In my research I discovered that kids MUST play to be resilient, to bounce back from stress, to thrive and flourish in a world filled with stress. Beyond that, I discovered that there's a proven method for structuring a 30 minute weekly playtime that empowers kids to get more out of their playtime than ever before. 30 minutes of playing with mom or dad using the trade secrets of play therapists is enough each week to empower a child with the skills and support they need to soar.
If you'd like to sign up for my newsletter and hear more about what I have to share I've provided a button below. I call it the Playful Presence Journal. I am confident you'll enjoy it.
Not ready to sign up yet? That's okay. I get it. You don't know me that well yet and with so many others out there claiming to have all the answers it's hard to know who to trust. While I've given you information that will help you determine if your child is struggling with normal anxious feelings that everyone experiences from time to time, or something more challenging, you're needing more. You need help now. You don't have time to wait for a newsletter to learn more. You need to know where to start to help your child.
WHAT TO DO UNTIL YOU CAN DO MORE
Here's a place to start. Whether your child is struggling with normal anxious feelings or something more, here's a good place to begin.
Make sure your child has time to PLAY. I'm not talking about after school sports or dance or gymnastics. These activities are worthwhile endeavors but they're not the stress relieving, resilience building type of play I'm talking about.
Kids need the kind of play that happens off the ball field, where they are able to control the decision-making themselves. Kids MUST play to bounce back from stress, to become resilient and confident in the face of stressful challenges. They need room to engage their imaginations to explore new frontiers of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors outside of the formal rules and regulations of school and extra-curricular activities.
Anxious kids MUST play to experience a sense of self-control and return to calm.
They need time to release their accumulated feelings after a stressful day, to explore in their imagination who they are and who they want to be, to consider new ways to respond to situations that have occurred, and to the people they encounter in the world. They need time to gain perspective, to think things through, in their own way, in their own time.
For the anxious child, this might mean, putting homework off until after she's had time to decompress in play for an hour. It might mean, making playtime as regular in his schedule as games and practice times. It means making play a priority and prizing that time as valuable and worth guarding in your schedule.
Get out your schedule. Decide on a time you could make playtime a priority for your anxious child. Write it in your schedule and commit to keeping it a regular recurring event in your calendar. PLAYTIME.
Deborah Woods, National Board-Certified Counselor