Advice Column, Child, Health, Parenting

Dealing with an anxious child

  • Judy Dooley
  • Category Advice Column, Child, Health, Parenting

At some stage of childhood all children may become anxious or nervous due to new situations , change in routines or simply because of the over stimulation of a world that is far to large and confusing for them to comprehend. These anxieties are often debilitating and leave your child feeling vulnerable and afraid.

What is anxiety? 

Anxiety is fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of failure , fear of not knowing. Never belittle a child’s fears because although there is usually no immediate threat to your child they believe their fears are real.

Some signs that your child may be anxious could include any of the following :

  • A child who becomes overly clingy, impulsive, or distracted.
  • New nervous movements ( twitches, excessive hand wringing , blinking)
  • Disturbed sleeping patterns, either not able to sleep or sleeping longer than usual, or nightmares.
  • Sweating hands,dizziness, accelerated heart rate and breathing or the inability to breathe.
  • Feeling nauseous.
  • Complaining of headaches or stomachaches.

The most effective way of helping an anxious child is to:

Understanding anxiety – Taking the time to recognize and explain your child’s anxieties , allows them to know that anxiety is not a negative emotion. Rather it is our bodies way to safe guard us from what we fear or what may hurt us.

Prepare and plan – Always try to be that one step ahead, discuss where you going , what the area looks like, what they need to do. Recently , while on holiday , my 17 year old son who has Aspergers, was asked to pay the parking meter. Totally unsure of the practice he went into anxiety overdrive. Calmly explaining each step to him , the  hurdle was overcome and he was quite happy to pay the meter .

Encourage with positive words – Positivity and choice of words greatly affect your child’s anxiety.  By reinforcing positive statements you not only encourage , reassure but also develop a healthy self esteem.

Role play –Role play can be very effective , especially in small children. This allows them to go through the motions of  something they have never done and are unsure of what it entails or what role they are to play.

Coping techniques – Teaching your child some coping  techniques, such as breathing deeply or using a stress ball,  ensure that your child knows their emotions have been understood and that they have your support to overcome their fears. It also gives them a control over their fears.

Support – Always listen to your child. They are anxious for a reason . Stay at the extra mural , walk them to school, hold their hand a little longer. We are our children’s safety nets and here to guide them through the unknown and fearful.

While most children experience relatively mild forms of anxiety, some may suffer from more serious anxiety disorders that require treatment.  Always consult your pediatrician if you feel your child’s anxiety may be controlling their day to day functioning.

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