Guest post by Nicole from Gateway Therapies
DISCLAIMER: The following post is entirely the thoughts and opinion of the author. Any surveys or interviews have been conducted independently and are not linked to any other research being undertaken by the author. The responses from the survey participants have been de-identified for protection of privacy.
A Monster Problem
I was recently asked to prepare some information for my OT colleagues about working with children with anxiety. I am really interested in psychology – to the point where my first degree was one in this field, and this passion to learn more about how we think and feel has in many ways shaped my current practice.
In preparing the requested information, I consulted my usual resources – articles from experts, and information from health professionals in the field; however I thought it would also be worthwhile to hear some anecdotes and stories from real life mums and dads, with first hand experience with anxious children.
The experts say that a certain amount of ‘stress’ is normal for everyone. Do parents agree?
I informally surveyed a group of 45 parents and asked them questions about their children and their experiences with anxiety. Parents ticked which statement best fit their opinion on this matter.
So, it seems parents and the experts agree.
It is important to teach kids it is normal to occasionally feel angry, upset, frustrated, or anxious. It is also important to teach kids to effectively deal with these emotions, and the situations that cause these emotions to surface.
What makes kids anxious? Many things it seems! The parents who replied to the survey reported the following:
Table 2: What makes your child/ren anxious (that you know of)? Tick all that apply.
Other responses included thunder, dogs, balloons, swimming, conflict with friends, and being disciplined. One parent wrote:
“Since experiencing a bad storm last year my 8 year old is very anxious about any bad weather event. Even rain triggers a bit of anxiety. During the bad storm we lost power and I think she is particularly concerned about the house going dark in a storm again”.
The more common triggers appear to be fear of unfamiliar situations, places and people. One could argue that these are sensible fears, as they can protect us from danger. But the next question is, when does anxiety become a problem?
“Anxiety is a normal part of children’s development. But it’s estimated that anywhere between 8-22% of children experience anxiety more intensely and more often than other children, stopping them from getting the most out of life”.
Raising Children Network, 2009.
So, anxiety can become a problem. The good news is there is a lot you can do to help. It’s about finding what works best for you and your family. I asked parents in the survey how they help their child when they are anxious.
Debbie Hopper from Lifeskills 4 Kids shares these additional tips for helping kids to cope with stressful situations:
- Teach your child effective relaxation strategies e.g breathing techniques, deep pressure, and visualizations.
- Empathise, and show that you understand your child’s concerns.
- Don’t trivialize your child’s fears or make fun of them.
- Children learn by observing their parents. Model good coping skills.
- Prevent or remove sensory overload.
Relaxation techniques can definitely help too.
The things that cause anxiety in children vary over time. The way in which you respond, and the techniques you use, will also need to change over time. The strategies you use must be age-appropriate and a good-fit for your family to be effective.
If you are concerned that your child experiences anxiety beyond what you are comfortable with, or you would like some help finding the right strategies for your child – visit your GP or paediatrician for further advice.
For more information on this topic visit:
Hopper, D, 2010, Relaxation Skills 4 Kids: An educational resource for parents, teachers and professionals, www.lifeskills4kids.com.au
Nicole is a privately practicing Occupational Therapist (OT) in Brisbane, Queensland. She is mother to 2 beautiful girls aged two and four. More information about Nicole can be found here: www.gatewaytherapies.com.au