Is your kid complaining frequent unexplained headaches and stomach aches?
Does he or she eat too less or refuses to eat often?
Do they suffer from sleeplessness?
Are they cranky and get impulsive and angry easily?
Do they have tightened muscles?
Do they have phobias and fears and don’t want to participate in class activities?
Don’t want to go to school?
Do they demonstrate separation anxiety?
What is the reason behind this?
Wonder why do they suffer from the above issues? It’s simple, they have “Anxiety”. Anxiety is nothing but a form of stress which gets triggered if we perceive a threat. A bit of it is normal in all of us, including the children.
But if anxiety is prolonged and blows out of proportion, it becomes a hurdle in happiness and healthy living. That’s when it becomes a disorder.
The origin of anxiety in kids
With a boom in competitiveness, stress related to studies, constant pressure from schools and parents, anxiety has coined a special place for itself in our kid’s social peripheral.
Anxiety can be found across all the age groups, but it is increasingly becoming common in kids of all age. Whether a 6-year-old or a 16-year-old, kids are vulnerable beings and have impressionable minds. It is easy for them to get anxiety over issues we find trivial.
But for them, it may be like a mountain they wouldn’t dare climb. As per a study in America, every 8th kid is facing anxiety disorder and are getting adversely affected by it.
Causes of Stress in kids
For the last couple of decades, things have become intense for kids. Whether its studies, sports, extracurricular, extra classes or simply peer pressure. Some kids adjust well to the competitive scenarios, but some lose their grip someway along the line and find moving forward to be a gigantically impossible step.
Here are certain causes of anxiety in kids:
The technical term is Neurology. Sometimes the brain configuration is such that it is more prone to get anxiety attacks. For the same situation, a normal kid will behave easy, but an affected kid might shy away or get nervous instantly.
History of the disorder in the family:
Genetics play a role to an extent but sometimes its more of a watch and learn for the kids. If one parent suffers from anxiety and demonstrates such behavior in front of the kid, they deem it fit to adapt the reaction and begins exhibit that on a regular basis, unaware that their subconscious finds it okay because the parent does it too.
If the child went through a trauma, major or minor, they might try to cope with it by various means. Like shying away from the crowd, getting panicked at the stage or in front of too many strangers, or get unexplained phobias. Post-traumatic stress is the major cause of anxiety in teenagers.
Sometimes, it’s nothing but a personality trait. They tend to get anxious easily and if not treated on time, it becomes a habit, which they later find difficult to let go.
Believe it or not, girls are more prone to anxiety than boys. Why? Because they think more sincerely than boys, starting at an early age.
All the while boys, they invest much of their time roaming around with buddies or playing video games without a care in the world. That is why girls are predisposed to depression when they grow up. Of course, there could be exceptions here.
How to Deal with Anxiety?
Let’s discuss what can be done to put a stop to it or at least reduce it to a manageable level.
What do parents do?
They worry. They will move mountains to make their kids comfortable in any way they can. Or in case of anxiety, they might even move the entire planet or the stars. But you don’t have to go that far, just these small steps can relieve stress from your kid’s mind.
What Should parents do?
You are the model your kids follow
Watch how you behave in stressful situations in front of your kids. They are observant beings and quickly adapt the patterns you display. If you crib and cry, likely they are to follow in your footsteps. Instead, try to compose your worries and stresses in a positive manner. Let them see how efficiently you manage your anxiety and let them learn. Never hide it from them. Let them know you both are the same.
Deep Breathing Exercises
We have been given this great gift of meditation by nature just by breathing right. Practice deep breathing with your children. Whenever you see them panicking or hyperventilating, quickly make them sit and take deep breaths. Deep breathing pacifies the brain into thinking that everything is alright.
Worrying is Good – Tell them that!!
Anxiety is a mechanism of our brain to protect us from any probable danger. During the stone age, humans survived in the treacherous forests using the worry mechanism. Tell your children it is normal to worry. Feeling anxious is your bodies way of readying itself for battles. They are not alone, and everyone has this feeling in the pit of their stomach.
Also, for small kids, you can fix up a daily worry time, where they can jot down what worries them and how they can overcome it. Decorate it with colors, let the monster hiding in the closet come out and play with them.
Older kids need your help too
For older kids, tell them to worry in the open and not let it eat them from inside. Tell them also to jot it down in a diary of “things I want to get rid of”. They can write down ways to eradicate the problem in front of it. And gradually work on doing that. For instance, if they are worried about Maths, tell them to write down ways to conquer the subject. It could be anything, from taking help of the teacher or practicing till it becomes easy, giving some extra time to the subject daily and so forth.
Stop Avoiding the cause of Anxiety
If your kid has stage fright, do not let them shy away and hide under the blanket when the activity demands their presence. It doesn’t mean you force them to stand on the stage by hook or crook, tell them it is ok to be bad at talking or performing in front of so many people.
Tell them it takes a lot of courage for many of us to do something like that and it is a slow process of eliminating such phobias. They need to just calm down and work towards it one step at a time.
Try the checklist method
Be it a small-time shopkeeper or a doctor, how do people avoid mishaps? By following a checklist of the things to do. Even a well-trained doctor or construction engineer follow standard checklists on a daily basis. Because when it comes to a misfortune, even the brightest of minds panic and shut down.
Prepare a checklist of the things they should immediately begin when the anxiety or panic attack occurs. It might include breathing exercises. Once they are calmer, they can evaluate the problem, it will help them see the right size of the monster. Then, ways they can identify to overcome the cause of unnecessary anxiety.
It is a continuous process and takes a lot of time to bring it into a routine, but it is much better to try than to just become a depressed soul.
Personification of the Worry
It is a very effective method for small kids. Make the worry into a toy or an animal. Let them play with their worry. In the mind of a kid who doesn’t know what’s happening to them, it’s a mystical creature that is gnawing at them from the inside.
Tell them it’s nothing to be afraid of. It is just a small teddy or a Guinea pig who can be conquered over very easily. It will help them to identify and understand the cause of their racing heart.
Be compassionate towards yourself and your kid both
In order for you to help your anxious kid, you need to be anxiety free too. Avoid the, “oh so famous”, guilt trip of thinking you are the cause of their anxiety. You are a great parent and you are doing everything you can to help them, that is why you read this entire post.
Be kind on yourself first. And be kind with your kid’s problem. Do not in any circumstance reinforce their beliefs. If they are scared of insects, don’t say they should be. For you it’s a small insect, for them it might be who knows what?
When to seek external help?
If none of the above worked, it is maybe time to see a doctor. If anxiety is interfering with your kid’s daily life, and nothing seems to work, then you must seek the help of a professional. There are medications available that have shown wonderful results in easing an anxious mind.
Do not hesitate to seek medical help for your child. Anxiety is a proven form of illness and like any other, it needs to be cured too.