April 2009 - Dealing with Anxiety
The major difference between fear and anxiety is that fear has a known cause and anxiety is reflected in a nonspecific sense of uneasiness. Anxiety can have a spiral effect. Once the child begins to worry, and the child becomes convinced that he or she can't cope, he/she will say to him/herself "Why does this always happen to me?"
Factors that influence the problem
Conflict: Constant conflict may be at home, school or in social settings. This might manifest itself as struggling to keep the appearance that things are peaceful and harmonious or it may take the form of confrontation or covert attempts at manipulation.
Pressure: Today, our and society is an over-scheduled and competitive culture. Kids are over programmed and there is a sense of feeling like they are being pulled in many different directions, such as sports, family, friends, and other activities. It is also important to be aware as the parent how critical you are if your child does not achieve perfection or meets your own expectations.
Inconsistency: It is important to remain consistent with household rules and expectations, keep a routine schedule and enforce the rules.
Burnout: The overprogrammed life led by many children can lead to burnout. Kids may feel exhaustion and depression if they are in a chronic state of stress and activities.
Loneliness: Lonliness stems from a sense of isolation or that noone cares about you. It may arise from rejection, especially if the child is dependent on one person in particular.
Inferiority: There may be feelings of inferiority from real or imagined human limitations or disadvantages. They may feel inferior based on appearance, skills, background, coping ability, or success.
Life Change: Major life changes occur regularly. Births, deaths, divorce, a new job, moving, or a serious illness are some examples of life adjustments.
Self-Image: If others around the child (parents, peers, teachers) have unrealistic standards and expectations and there is the pressure to succeed each and every day, children may lose confidence in themselves after a few failures.
Suggestions for Anxiety
1) Work on the issues above.
2) Anxious children usually have anxious parents. They create an air of tension. It is important to not over protect your children and instead model optimism and healthy cautiousness.
3) Model good problem solving, help them figure out solutions instead of worrying.
4) When a child asks a question, they are a reflection of their worries. It is important to answer their questions and not laugh or dismiss them. They may be plotting a strategy for how to handle a difficutl problem in the future.
5) Teach your child how to calm down and relax. Yoga, triangle breathing, practicing (role-playing) when to use these strategies will help make these a habit and natural when they feel anxious or worried. Use one of the books in my bibliography or other books that address anxious children.
6) Tell your child they have certain times they may worry or write down their worries. If a worry comes up when it is not the scheduled time, ask them to wait until "worry time".
7) Worry dolls are helpful because your child can verbalize one worry per doll and put them under the pillow at night. Tell your child the worry dolls will take the worries so he/she does not have to.
The above information and strategies are based on the book Pass-Along Papers by Barbara Kuczen and Carly Kuczen.