Hi! I am Sarah - a Mum and a Counsellor. I am delighted to have asked to feature as a guest blogger.
I hope you enjoy reading it and thank you Lottie x
Anxiety in Childhood
Children can feel anxious just like us grown-up’s and like us their anxiety can slowly begin to affect their wellbeing. Being a mum I know too well about all the little (or not so little, but catastrophic melt-down) phases our little ones go through. When we start to breathe a sigh of relief at the ending of one ‘phase’ BOOM! Another ‘phase’ comes along.
As hard as it can be for us to deal and sometimes manage these ‘phases’ it can be an anxious time for our children. Imagine not having the voice, the thinking capability or the experience to understand and process what is going on. Pretty frightening right?
Many of these worries are a normal part of growing up. For instance, from around eight months to three years it is common for our babies to have ‘separation anxiety’. They may start becoming clingier and cry when separated from their parent or caregiver. This is normal, and it passes around the age of two to three. When they are pre-school age suddenly they have fears and phobias, again these fears tend to go away gradually, on their own. Other things that can lead to anxiety is starting a new school.
When is Anxiety a Problem for your Child?
Anxiety becomes a problem for children when it starts to mess up their day-to-day life. Some children have to live with constant anxiety and this is impacts on their education, social interactions and overall health. Sometimes anxiety can be so high that children cannot go to school.
When a child’s anxiety is this high it can be harmful to their mental and emotional wellbeing. Which sometimes eats away at their confidence feeding the anxiety further. Some kids will go to great lengths to avoid going places and may begin to withdraw.
What are the Signs of Anxiety in Children?
It can be very frustrating when a young child feels anxious as they cannot always explain or express how they are feeling.
Here are some Common Signs if you are Concerned your Little One May be Anxious:
They become more irritable, tearful or more clingy
Find it hard to sleep
Wake up during the night
Begin wetting their bed
Have bad dreams
In Older Children the Signs can be Different:
Lack in self-confidence to try new things
Unable to face everyday tasks
Difficulty in concentrating
Prone to angry outbursts
Believe something bad is going to happen to them
A lot of negative and worried thoughts racing around their mind
Avoiding meeting their friends, not joining in on after-school activities, or not wanting to go to school
** If concerned please always seek professional advice from a doctor or counsellor **
Why is my Child Anxious?
We are all different, and some children can be more prone to worry about things than other children. Sometimes we may be blessed with a little sensitive soul who gets very upset when they see another child cry. They may worry about bad monsters, or about starting school. They may need an extra cuddle at bedtime or an extra ounce of reassurance.
Some children have faced a traumatic experience in their young lives, such as death or a car accident and this experience has led to anxiety.
What Can You Do to Help Your Child Deal with Anxiety?
There is plenty we can do to help our children through anxiety:
Let your child tell you what it is like in their own words. Simply listening will show them that you care and that what they are saying is important - they will feel heard.
Talk to your child about anxiety and try to walk in their little shoes to understand what it is like - this will give your child reassurance in knowing that you understand.
Through educating your child about anxiety in a language and words they understand will help them feel ‘normal’ and that in actual fact anxiety is normal. For example, you can explain it like a wave that builds up and then breaks away.
Show you understand by finding a solution. Anxiety has a horrible habit of displacing itself - so once one worry is sorted and solved, it will fixate itself on another. Sit down together and explore different options and solutions. Contact your local doctor or child counsellor/psychologist for extra help and support.
How to Teach your Child to Manage their Anxiety
Sit down together and make a list of all the signs of anxiety (as they can vary in each child) - your child will become more aware of when anxiety is being triggered and when to ask for help
Children find routines reassuring, so try to follow a regular daily routine as best as you can
If distressing events leave your child feeling anxious - such as bereavement - have a look for films or books that can help them to understand their feelings further
Talk to your child and prepare them as much as you can for any changes, such as moving house
Whilst as a parent it can be so distressing to see your baby upset, try to stand back as much as you and not be too overprotective. Instead, encourage them to manage and look for solutions themselves
Mindfulness can help greatly. Even a breathing exercise in the morning and bedtime - these relaxation techniques such as taking three deep, slow breaths, breathing in for a count of three and out for three will help reduce anxiety
Distraction can be so helpful for young children. Count or play a game. Ask them to talk to their favourite toy or Lottie doll about their worries.
Huge thank you to Sarah, from New Beginnings Counselling for this very useful and informative piece about Anxiety in Children. For more information, check out her Facebook page: New Beginnings Counselling