Help! My Child Is Suffering From Anxiety

Anxiety is a feeling of unease, worry or fear and it’s part of life, says Lulu Luckock

Like it or not we all feel anxious sometimes.

Anxiety is a feeling of unease, worry or fear. It is a part of life and for good reason, our brains are wired to protect us from harm and potential danger.

I always think of anxiety as being like an alarm bell that’s sounding out that somethings not right.

When faced with something threatening our amygdala (the pea sized emotion part of our brain) gets alerted and in times of serious threat it takes just 6 seconds for our bodies to be flooded with adrenaline and the flight, flight, freeze or flop reaction takes over.

This is often referred to as being triggered.

When the red mist falls and the amygdala has been hijacked the best ever tool is to take 5 deep breathes to center yourself again. It also helps to name the feeling, as Dr Dan Siegel would say “name it to tame it”.

However, when your child feels a low level of anxiety about tangible life experiences like going for a sleep over, meeting someone new or perhaps trying a new challenge it’s important that you don’t take the uncomfortable experience from your child is an attempt to fix the problem.

Far better to let them know that they are bigger than their worries and all will be ok even if they are feeling anxious.

You may not have control over the situation but show confidence that you believe in them and with your support you know they will face their fears. When you help your child to problem solve and work to help them build the resilience they need to face any challenge.

Reassure them with your presence, validate their feelings by expressing your understanding of the fact that what they are experiencing is hard, but they can do hard things. Help them to make a plan.

Our emotions whether they are pleasant or unpleasantare like a guide that help us navigate the world and understand how it is affecting us. 

It’s important to help our children understand that all their emotions have value, and that there are no ‘good’ ones, no ‘bad ‘ones.

When we do this, we help them to recognise, understand and listen to the messages that their feelings are telling them.  By doing this they become curious about what’s going on, developing self-awareness and self-regulation strategies in the process.

As anxiety is not a comfortable feeling it’s important as parents to normalise it with our children when we are experiencing it.

When you model your own coping strategies with your children (from an early age) they will learn appropriateways to regulate their own uncomfortable and unpleasant feelings.

Show them what you do when you feel anxious to feel less anxious.

Here are ways to explain anxiety to your young child and some strategies to help you to help them when they or you 😉 next feel anxious.

Top tips.

Be sure that your child grows up knowing they are bigger than their anxiety.

Explain anxiety as being a little like a guard dog that’s inside of them ready to protect them whenever anything potentially threatening or dangerous comes close. Sometimes that guard dog can be a little overprotective, barking at all kinds of things that aren’t dangerous. It’s just trying to keep them safe. The guard dog/anxiety is a natural response. What message is the guard dog telling them?

Teach them how to tune into their bodies to help them to recognise what anxiety feels like in their body. Does it feel pleasant? Is there a feeling of high energy or low energy? Does their physicality change when they feel anxious, does their heartbeat faster, do their fists clench, do they go red? When we recognise our feelings, we are better able to find ways to express and regulate them.

Getting in touch with our breathing is the simplest way to calm anxiety and ground ourselves. Familiarize yourself with specific child friendly breathing exercises.

Help your child to imagine a space that makes them feel safe — verbally talk through or write out all the details of that safe space. Suggest they go to their safe space when they feel anxious. Remind them that they can return to this safe space any time that they begin to feel anxious.

We tend to see anxiety as an emotion to avoid but it isn’t necessarily a bad feeling. Anxiety can spur us on, helping us to stay alert, motivating us to solve problems and all the while remain aware of the risks.

Helping your child face their fears will lead them to feel a sense of achievement, this will in turn help themdevelop self- confidence and trust in themselves.

When we run from our fears, they often have a way of returning.

 

As a favourite children’s book repeatedly says

We can’t go over it. We can’t go under it. Oh no! We‘ve got to go through it!

 

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