Does your child ever feel a flutter in his stomach or have sweaty palms before a test? Does she feel this before meeting someone new for the first time? If so, then your child is experiencing a typical response to stressful situations otherwise known as anxiety.
It is natural to have these reactions and emotional responses and is only a problem when these become overwhelming, unmanageable and have a persistent negative impact on a person’s life.
Anxiety can have both a positive effect and a negative effect on a child. It can be a motivator to better oneself and overcome challenges, for example, when a person is feeling anxious about an upcoming exam. Experiencing anxiety, in this instance, is normal and if managed appropriately, can motivate the child to adequately prepare for the exam. If a child is not able to manage his anxiety, it can hinder his social and academic progress. One example of unmanaged anxiety is when a child becomes too scared or worried to raise their hand in class or if they struggle to participate in social situations. Anxiety starts to become a problem when it causes a person to avoid activities or places because they are feeling nervous, shy, or afraid. If your child is experiencing anxiety, here are five things you can do to help (for additional support, please visit www.rmpsychservices.com):
Do not avoid anxiety.
Talk to your child when she is feeling anxious and where she is feeling it in her body. Ask her about the emotions and thoughts she is experiencing. Talking about these things can make them less scary and help the child to feel more in control of their experience.
Talk to your child about your own experiences of anxiety.
Talk about times when you felt anxious and what you did that helped; this will help your child to learn that anxiety is normal and that it is not something to be afraid of. It will give him the message that he can “get to the other side” of feeling anxious and be ok.
Have confidence in your child.
Show your child that you have confidence in her decision making. When a child knows that she is supported in her decision-making it helps to reduce her fear of making the wrong decision or doing something incorrectly, etc. This approach helps the child to see herself as a problem-solver and to know that it is ok to make mistakes or get things wrong.
Show your child some simple techniques.
Deep Breathing (also called “belly breathing”) or progressive muscle relaxation (e.g., progressively tensing and releasing muscles starting at toes and ending with face muscles) helps calm the body and counteracts the feeling of anxiety.
Have routines and structure in your child’s life.
When children have predictability in their lives, it creates security. They know what the rules of the house and family are and know what to expect if they break those rules. Routines help the child to experience less anxiety. Modify the routine if you notice his anxiety is steadily increasing and he is unable to cope with the current approach; in other words, meet them where they are at and let them know that you are there to support and help them in reducing their anxiety.
If your child is experiencing anxiety and you’d like more help, RMPS offers individual or group counseling for anxiety. Our next anxiety groups for children start in January 2019.
Click here for more information
Rocky Mountain Psychological Services (RMPS) has been providing counseling services in Calgary for more than 20 years. RMPS continues to receive referrals from schools, medical doctors, speech pathologists, occupational therapists, family lawyers, and past clients who have experienced positive results. Visit www.rmpsychservices.com or click here for information on groups we are currently running and information on individual counseling sessions offered by highly skilled and qualified staff at RMPS.