Childhood Anxiety: Helpful Hints for Parents and Caretakers

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Do you know a fearful child suffering with anxiety?

Symptoms Of Anxiety

Children with anxiety had difficulties sleeping at night, making friends or trying new experiences. They are clingy and struggle with independence.  These children may bite their nails, wet the bed and need a high degree of reassurance. Some children are born extra sensitive, some have experienced trauma in their lives.  Regardless of the cause, these children can’t find personal peace and they can be very frustrating to their adult caretakers.

Tool Box

When an anxious child senses you are angry or frustrated with them their anxiety increases.  So what is a parent to do? Cheryl Erwin is a licensed marriage and family therapist who provides parent coaching, parent education, and professional training. www.cherylerwin.com.  Here are her thoughts on anxiety and children: “Anxiety and related issues are the number-one presenting problem that brings children and teens to therapy–and it’s not surprising, given how anxious and overprotective so many parents are, and the nature of news coverage of disasters. With a child this age, I find it is most helpful to engage them in discovering what helps them feel better, and to create a “toolbox” of skills.

Worry Monster– What do their worries feel like? You might ask where in their body does the worry live? Does it have a color? A texture? * I often invite the child to help me draw the worries, or perhaps a “worry monster.” *

Validate: Anxiety does not respond to logic, so it isn’t helpful to tell kids “there’s nothing to worry about” or “that will never happen.” It is best to listen patiently and empathetically. Intelligent, articulate, creative children are often those who struggle most with anxiety because they can think ahead and instinctively know that the world can be a dangerous place. * Children’s worries are often about losing a parent, having someone they love get sick or die, fires, burglaries, guns, kidnapping, and intruders–things over which children have no control.

Wheel of Choices- It helps to validate their feelings without trying to “fix” them. (These ARE scary things!) * It can be helpful to teach children simple relaxation or mindfulness skills, such as breathing, focusing on sounds, or noticing body sensations while relaxing. You can brainstorm with them a “Worry Wheel of Choice” with things that help them feel safe and calm.

Safe Place– Music, exercise, simple visualizations, or just talking about it can be good suggestions. I often ask children where they feel most at peace and safe, then we learn to “go there” in our minds whenever we need to. *

Drawing- We often draw a box and call it the worry toolbox; then we “pack it” with skills the child has chosen. (Some kids bring in an actual box and we put paper or small objects in it to represent the tools.)

Their Solutions- It helps if the child is actively involved in creating these solutions. I once had a nine-year-old come to my office all excited because she’d created her own solution. She called it “BIRD”, which stood for things that helped her: breathing, imagination, reading, and drawing. She did much better after she learned to BIRD.

Another little guy’s dad had severe uncontrollable seizures; the parents were divorced, and this eight-year-old was often the person who had to call 911 for Dad and then give directions. He drew a “seizure monster” on the white board and shot it with Nerf arrows–every week for months. But it helped. He and Dad are both doing much better now. * Let them know that worry is a part of life and lots of people feel scared sometimes, including parents and teachers.

We may always have worries, but if we have a good toolbox (and people to talk to) we can always handle them.”

Great advice, thank you Cheryl. Check out her website for more tips and tools. Photo from: http://parenting4tomorrow.blogspot.com/2010/07/as-new-parents-most-moms-and-dads-dream.html Another good site: smartmomz.com

Contact Me/Camille Foster/ 801.472.7134/ 1fosterconnect@gmail.com 

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