“PARdon Me” a blog series by Laura Duke, CPNP, IBCLC
PARdon me…but how are the worriers at your house? Has the anxiety level hit the red zone? Even if you were able to answer some of your child’s questions using the strategies we discussed last time, it is normal for your child to be anxious in our current situation. How do you know when your child has too much anxiety and what can you do to help?
Anxiety can be a very normal and healthy emotion. It alerts us. It recruits our defense mechanisms and internal problem-solving skills. It may cause distress but is not always a medical condition. It becomes a problem when its duration or severity is out of proportion to the circumstances.
Anxiety is not always easy to recognize, especially in children. Children are not always able to put words to their feelings or express that they are anxious. Restlessness, difficulty concentrating, irritability, temper tantrums or rages, increased fatigue, poor eating and/or frequent trips to the bathroom may all be signs that your child is anxious. Nausea, stomachaches, and headaches, in the absence of other signs of illness, may also be symptoms of excessive anxiety.
How can you help your family manage their anxiety? Now more than ever, mental health resources are available at your fingertips from the comfort of your couch.
Meditation and Mindfulness
We cannot remove stress or worries from our children’s lives but we can help them develop a toolbox of strategies that help. Anxiety often changes our breathing patterns. Taking the time to pause and slow our breathing pattern can have a big impact on how we feel. Phone apps like Calm or Headspace are excellent for teens and older children to build a meditation practice or structure their breathing. Pinterest is not just for recipes or home décor. Just search under anxiety and kids. You will find creative tools for youth of all ages. You can make your own mindfulness jar or teach your younger child starfish or five finger breathing patterns. There are charts, ideas for play therapy and lists of helpful books.
As parents, we want to reassure our children. However, telling an anxious child not to worry or that everything is going to be all right does not typically take the anxiety away. What we can do is help our children express and channel their worries. Allow them to worry but contain it. Have them help you identify what are worries they can control and what are worries they cannot control. Make a worry box in which they can place written-down worries they cannot control, and let them go. Give them a worry they can solve: What shall we have for dinner Friday night? What game will we play outside tomorrow? Dr. Nelson loves to ask kids, “What ice cream flavor has not yet been invented?”
Your children watch you. You are often their barometer to what is going on in the world. They may not hear you ask them for the tenth time to make their bed but they are listening to everything else you say. There is a time and place for adult conversations. Before you help your kids with their anxiety, make sure you are addressing your own. Take care of yourself and give yourself some grace. And as I have said before, turn off the television.
Let us know if despite these strategies your child’s excessive anxiety persists. We are here to help.
In the meantime……PARdon me…
We are here for you…..if there is a topic that you would like addressed in a future blog, please let us know in the comment section.