This Guest Blog post comes in an effort to help equip parents, caregivers, friends, and family with information and resources found on Surviving My Past and Jumo Health. By utilizing this resource and others, we can hopefully inspire and encourage everyone with the hope of conquering anxiety.
Anxiety is a common human response to different triggers in our lives. Triggers can come in various forms, and develop during different stages of our lives. Adults often have a difficult time identifying triggers, so it can be presumed that it’s even harder for children to pinpoint where their anxiety is stemming from.
In fact, 1 out of 7 children in the United States aged 2 to 8 years had a diagnosed mental, behavioral, or developmental disorder. Aside from early diagnosis and treatment, the best way to help children understand anxiety for what it is, is to open the dialogue surrounding the topic. Support is essential. As human rights activist Malcolm X said, “When I is replaced by we, illness becomes wellness.” In other words, the sooner we are able to recognize anxiety and continue the conversation surrounding it, the better able we are to support our children in overcoming their anxiety.
Anxiety can generally be defined as, “apprehension without apparent cause.” Fear and worry are a part of everyday life. With that said, it should be noted that experiencing these symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean you have an anxiety disorder. Anxiety develops into a disorder when the symptoms become chronic in our daily lives, and affect our ability to function normally.
For children, oftentimes circumstances overlooked as minuscule (such as starting school, parental divorce, failing at a hobby, or moving) can cause insurmountable amounts of anxiety. When children don’t understand why they are feeling this way, it can cause heightened feelings of vulnerability and hopelessness.
It’s vital to watch out for physical and emotional symptoms of anxiety in children. Much like:
- Stomach aches or headaches without a medical reason
- Refusal to participate (in school, at home or with friends)
- Exaggerated phobias
- Becoming easily distracted or having compulsive thoughts
How You Can Help:
The best way we can help our children is to recognize symptoms and start the dialogue early, further reinforcing the fact that they are not alone. By openly talking to children about their feelings, you are creating a safe and nonjudgmental environment that guides them to process their emotions and thoughts in a healthy manner. But don’t go at it alone. There are great resources to help both parents and kids:
When your child is initially diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, it can be shocking, overwhelming, and overall confusing. For those who don’t know where to start, Jumo Health offers guidance on the right steps to take to help your child. You can find a free podcast download on Jumo’s site that discusses mental health (i.e. anxiety and depression) among adolescents. This particular podcast interviews Gianna, a high school junior who shares her story of living with depression and anxiety. With this podcast, Gianna hopes to help foster a relatable conversation that raises awareness about the realities of mental health that many face, but might be too afraid to talk about.
Another great resource to help cultivate the initial conversation about anxiety with your child is Anxiety BC’s, “Talking to Your Child or Teen about Anxiety” guide. These talking points use step by step strategies to stimulate productive conversation, and take the anxiety out of talking about anxiety.
Additionally, create a MAP (My Anxiety Plan) for your child. Provide your child with an arsenal of tools to help them feel prepared when turbulent feelings of stress and worry start to arise. Anxiety BC says, “It is far more effective to provide your child with the tools to tolerate and cope, rather than to control and escape.” Implement a list of ideas, such as breathing techniques, physical exercises, journals, etc. in order to make your child feel prepared.
From a personal perspective, I encourage you to check out You 1 Anxiety 0, by Psychotherapist and Anxiety Tamer, Jodi Aman. This resource has been tremendously helpful for me and I use to as a teaching guide for local anxiety courses that I facilitate in the Central PA area, as well as a basis for online courses in group settings.