Did you know childhood anxiety is not uncommon and it’s actually a normal part of growing up? I don’t know about you but it’s been a minute or two since I was a kid. I remember getting stressed but compared to adult-level stress and anxiety that we adults experience, I have a hard time keeping my children’s anxiety levels in perspective at times.
Anxiety is a feeling of apprehension with no discernible cause. Anxiety is normal and is experienced by almost all children at times. It becomes a concern only when it interferes with a child’s typical daily routine. Anxiety is usually related to a perceived threat. Whereas, fear is almost always associated with an external threat. Anxiety disorders can have crippling effects on a child in school, at home and in social settings. The causes of anxiety are many and research shows that a tendency toward suffering anxiety is at least partially inherited. If you are a parent, you can help decrease your child’s anxiety simply by listening to your child. Often a child will feel anxious about a specific situation and all he needs to do is talk to someone about it. Of course the first step is that you as the parent realizes that your child is having anxiety, acknowledging that anxiety to the child (although you don’t have to use the word “anxiety”) and letting your child know what they are experiencing is normal. If possible attempt to change any unusual circumstances that may be contributing to the anxiety. Give your child some ways to cope with it, like talking about it or drawing about it etc. Perhaps talk with your child about what he or she thinks may help them cope with the anxiety. Practice consistent discipline measures even you’re your child is anxious. Consistency helps children decrease their overall level of anxiety because sameness breeds a feeling of safety. Stay away from excessive or unusual discipline practices. Set realistic, attainable goals for your child. Teachers should be aware of school phobia. Although school phobia is not an anxiety order per se, it is present when anxiety accompanies a consistent reluctance or complete refusal to go to school. It may be accompanied by selective mutism, characterized by a child’s refusal to speak at school or in places where he fears the scrutiny of others. Advocate for your children with the school when they are having phobias associated with school. Talk to the teach and school counselor about ways to help your child with their school phobia.
In this age of school testing, test anxiety can cause school phobia in children. Recently my child was having test anxiety over timed multiplication tests. My child knew the math but knowing that she was being timed caused her to have test anxiety and her brain would lock up and she just couldn’t get through the test. This resulted in her having several crying spells. I communicated with the teacher about her test anxiety. I worked with my child not so much on the math but on helping her learn to cope with the anxiety. I gave her positive coping statements to repeat to herself. I told her if she did not pass the test I would still loved her and be proud of her; and I only wanted to know that she was trying her best. I had her do some deep breathing exercising before our practice tests at home. I asked her to visualize something calming to her. I had her say a short prayer for peace and mental focus. The next time she took the test she got very close to a passing score. The teacher allowed her to pass the test because she knew I was working with her and that she was working hard. I assured my child that the next time she would probably not get a break on her test score. But my child learned the most important lesson: that allowing anxiety to take over will cause decreased performance and that she can control her feelings of anxiety.
So if your child is having anxiety problems trying to incorporate the above suggestions. If those suggestions don’t help your child it may be time to seek the help of a professional counselor.
To learn more about childhood anxiety here’s a link to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.
Here’s another good resource, The Child Anxiety Network.