Coping With an Anxious Child

We're still in the middle of massive change occurring in the world everywhere. During times of massive change, routines and schedules often start to fluctuate, as we are all well aware of right now. This can create anxiety, stress, and overwhelm.

We often don't often realize how much stress kids can experience. They’re very masterful at hiding their stress, and may not even know what 'stress' is. They're not going to describe it as stress. Childhood anxiety can develop into a much greater concern if children don't know how to cope.

This is when we may start seeing acting out in like upset, intrigue or so-called “bad” behavior. If your child is acting out, What are they anxious about? What are they stressed out about?

This blog aims to share a few questions and techniques you can ask and do with your kids to help them deal with anxiety and recognize it when it shows up. First let's look at the different types of anxiety that can manifest in children.

This can be what I would call “invisible overwhelm,” where kids go into overwhelm. They don't really know why... They may be experiencing emotions or having physical sensations, like stomach aches or headaches but they don't know why. That can be a form of anxiety or stress.

Types of Anxiety:

Generalized anxiety, which is really the most common dis-order and that's where children worry about things like school, their family, the future. Physical symptoms may manifest like headaches, stomach aches, muscle tension, and tiredness. That's your generalized anxiety.

Then there's OCD, which is obsessive compulsive disorder and this is where kids express anxiety through obsessions and compulsions.

There's also phobias which are really intense fear about certain situations or things (like clowns, bugs or being in small spaces).

And there's also social anxiety. This is triggered when you're in front of groups of people or big situations. And there may be panic attacks. These anxiety episodes a lot of times can happen without warning and include physical symptoms that children can experience like a pounding heart rate, shortness of breath, dizziness, numbness, or a tingling feeling.

Lastly, is PTSD which is post-traumatic stress disorder. That's usually anxiety that stems from a prior experience and a lot of times that includes things like flashbacks, nightmares, fears and avoidance of that traumatic event in the present time.

With PTSD, sounds and smells can also be triggers. It could be something like an adult yelled loudly or screamed at sometime and created stress (physically, emotionally, mentally). There could have been a certain tone to the voice or a smell that was happening. The child might hear someone talking that sounds like that person and instantaneously, the body is back in that fight or flight from trauma.

It is fight or flight or sometimes it could even be freeze. With all the flux and the changes in routines and not being able to hang out with friends, you’re going to see more of the generalized anxiety. Here are few tips and tools and phrases that you as parents or caretakers can use to help in those situations.

Tips & Tools & Phrases:

Before we begin, take a big, deep breath to help manage your own anxiety and pulse rate. Just note, you can’t try to fix or change something in the middle of an intense situation. You can give these phrases which will help tone it down, but you can’t try to “fix” something when you’re in that fight or flight. This is why taking that breath may allow you to be aware of what is required before it explodes into an episode.

Take a deep breath in, then a long deep breath out.

Imagine all of your troubles falling off your body into the ground.

Expand your own zone of awareness out:

Notice the space around you and expand that out as far as you can. Include your child in that so they can also feel the space.

It's almost like perceiving that they're in this bubble or box, and they have way too much going on, and you are actually expanding the edges of that bubble and making it bigger so they have a greater space, allowing them to actually breathe de