During the last few decades TV comedy sitcoms have showcased dysfunctional families, several of which have become big hits. However, it’s not so comical or entertaining if you happen to be, in reality, part of a dysfunctional family, especially for the children.
Anxiety is a normal part of childhood and growing up, and it’s safe to say everyone experiences some level of anxiety through their lifetime. For a certain number of people, though, childhood anxiety may turn into teen and adult anxiety. In fact, we all probably know an adult whom we think of as a chronic “worry wart,” but does that meant they’re affected by anxiety?
As parents, learning how to manage childhood anxiety can be beneficial both for your children and the adults they will become.
Anxiety Can Be Positive
Positive or normal anxiety protects us from danger and can help us reach goals. It feels uncomfortable, but it’s temporary and will gradually go away. The heightened anxiety a child feels before a test at school or an adult experiences before a job interview can either drive us to do our best or cause us to fail miserably. Learning how to manage anxiety for life is one of the greatest gifts we can give our children.
Childhood should be a carefree and happy time for kids, but unfortunately, for many kids their life is full of worry and fear. If a child becomes fearful or anxious after watching a scary movie, that’s quite normal and usually is forgotten in a day or two. Being afraid of the dark, of strangers, or being separated from parents are mostly normal behaviors for young children.
Conversely, when a youngster is fearful of social events, school, getting on the bus, or just going outside their house, this is a more serious situation, and parents would be wise to take note.
Thinking they will “grow out of it,” or it’s “just a phase” might work for a while, but unless parents intervene and address their child’s fears. they may never be able to provide their child with the skills needed to deal with life’s challenges.
Tips To Help Parents Manage Childhood Anxiety
Try the following suggestions if your child seems overly anxious:
- Explain to your child that everyone gets worried sometimes, and it’s a normal feeling.
- Remain calm and avoid anger when your child is anxious.
- For young children, create a worry box and a “worry time.” Take 15 minutes each day and have your child write down what they are worried about today. Then throw them in the box and close the lid. Eventually there will be less and less things to write down.
- For younger children, make up a character. Give that character a name like Wally the Worrier and have your child talk to Wally and explain why he shouldn’t be so worried.
- Reward brave behavior and respond with praise.
- Model the calm behavior you want from your child. Talk slowly, make eye contact, and reassure them everything is OK.
When To Seek Help
When your child worries all the time, constantly ponders about what might happen, has headaches and stomach ailments, and gradually shows a decline in grades, it may be time to seek the help of a professional. Your child may be suffering from an anxiety disorder. This can affect all phases of a child’s day to day life: eating, sleeping, and concentration in school.
Depression, eating disorders, and suicide rates are increasing and many believe these problems begin with anxiety disorders.
If you think your child is experiencing a high level of stress and anxiety, see your physician at PediatriCare of Northern Virginia for an evaluation and advice.