Why Getting Tough Wont Work
School anxiety isnt a case of wont, its a case of cant. Its anxiety. Its a physiological response from a brain that thinks theres danger. Sometimes the anxiety is driven by the fear that something will happen to the absent parent. Sometimes its not driven by anything in particular. Whether the danger is real or not is irrelevant. Many kids with anxiety would know somewhere inside them that there is nothing to worry about, but theyre being driven by a brain that thinks theres a threat and acts as though its true.
When this happens, the fight or flight response is triggered and the body is automatically surged with neurochemicals to deal with the threat. Thats why anxiety can look like a tantrum or resistance . Its the physiological, neurochemical response of a brain on high alert. Its hard enough to control your own brain when its on high alert, let alone someone elses, however much that someone else wants to do the right thing.
We humans are wired towards keeping ourselves safe above everything else. Its instinctive, automatic, and powerful. This is why tough love, punishment or negotiation just wont work. If you were in quicksand, no amount of any of that would keep you there while you got sucked under. Youd fight for your life at any cost. School is less dramatic than quicksand but to a brain and a body in fight or flight, it feels the same.
The good news is that there are powerful ways to turn this around. Lets talk about those.
Prevention Of Anxiety And Depression
It is not known exactly why some children develop anxiety or depression. Many factors may play a role, including biology and temperament. But it is also known that some children are more likely to develop anxiety or depression when they experience trauma or stress, when they are maltreated, when they are bullied or rejected by other children, or when their own parents have anxiety or depression.
Although these factors appear to increase the risk for anxiety or depression, there are ways to decrease the chance that children experience them. Learn about public health approaches to prevent these risks:
How To Help A Child With Anxiety
Parents and teachers have a crucial role to play in the management of anxiety in children. The following tips may help a child manage and overcome anxiety:
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Helping Your Anxious Teen: Positive Parenting Strategies To Help Your Teen Beat Anxiety Stress And Worry
- Sheila Achar Josephs
The teen years can be difficult, even without anxiety added to the mix. Its a time when kids are naturally starting to pull away from their parents and seek their own independence. A time when parents might feel like they no longer know how to connect with their child.
Add in anxiety and it can feel impossible for some parents to reach their teen. This book can help with that. It equips parents with the tools they need to help their teenager with anxiety. Even when that teenager may think they dont want their parents help at all.
Why we like it
Research has found that anxiety disorders often run in families. So while some kids who deal with anxiety are born into families that have no understanding of what that means, most probably have at least one parent who has dealt with anxiety themselves.
If youre that parent, you may be longing even more for a resource that can help you help your child. After all, you dont want them to face the same challenges you have.
But guess what? Your desire to help them may be contributing to your own worries and creating a cycle of anxiety in your home. This book can help put an end to that cycle once and for all.
Why we like it
- Any book that helps both parent and child is a winner as far as were concerned.
- Both writers have backgrounds in the mental health field and experience working with families living with anxiety.
Teach Your Child To Be A Thought Detective
Remember, worry is the brains way of protecting us from danger. To make sure were really paying attention, the mind often exaggerates the object of the worry . You may have heard that teaching your children to think more positively could calm their worries. But the best remedy for distorted thinking is not positive thinking its accurate thinking. Try a method we call the 3Cs:
- Catch your thoughts: Imagine every thought you have floats above your head in a bubble . Now, catch one of the worried thoughts like No one at school likes me.
- Collect evidence: Next, collect evidence to support or negate this thought. Teach your child not to make judgments about what to worry about based only on feelings. Feelings are not facts.
- Challenge your thoughts: The best way to do this is to teach your children to have a debate within themselves.
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Seeking Help For Childhood Anxiety
If a childs anxious behavior persists or begins to impair their social, academic, or personal functioning, then it might be a good idea to seek professional help. Its widely accepted among mental health professionals that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is and Dialectical Behavior Therapy are effective approaches that help children deal with anxiety in positive and productive ways. A skilled therapist takes time to get to know a child and listens to their particular set of challenges. They then offer a wide variety of techniques to help kids process stress and anxiety. Sometimes all it takes is someone to talk to someone aside from a parent or a friend and a child can learn how to handle the things that are tripping them up. Then they can get on with the real business at hand: being a kid.
Do You Have A Child With Anxiety Or Shyness
Children dont have to be socially anxious to be considered shy, and there are endless factors that can contribute to a childs interaction comfort zone. We dont have to force them to change, per se, but habitual shyness can dramatically lessen a kids emotional and social growth. Striking a balance when addressing a shy childs need is essential.
The short answer is yes. For example, some children display shy tendencies while remaining secure in their outlook and behavior. A little further along on the spectrum, some kids are shy but wish they could be more outgoing and involved. At the other end of the spectrum, youd find children with any number ofspecific anxiety disorders.
Is your little one suffering from child anxiety? Take this test and find out.
Some questions to consider when contemplating your childs reactions and anxiety:
- Is this situation causing your kid to miss out on activities that others their age enjoy?
- How does shyness impact your childs academic work and social life?
- Are you worrying a lot about yours childs shyness?
- Is this leading you to feel differently about your child?
- Do you find yourself altering your actions to work around your kids shyness?
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In A Calmer Moment Talk With Your Child About Their Anxiety
Ask them what it feels like in their mind and body, and what things make them feel that way. It can be tempting to dismiss their worries because you want to reassure them, but its important to empathise with their experience and validate their feelings. You can find more tips on our guide to starting a conversation.
- reflect on how youre feeling
- talk to other people you trust
- remind yourself youre not alone odds are someone in your friendship circle has anxiety or depression too
Anxiety And The Pandemic
After long periods of social isolation with family members, it may be hard for some children and parents to be separated from them once the school bell rings. Particularly after our pandemic year, some children and parents may still feel some anxiety about going into unfamiliar places. They may also have concerns about pandemic safety that makes going back to school stressful.
In a normal year, approximately one in 10 children experience elevated anxiety levels. However, research shows that anxiety levels in children have doubled during the pandemic, with one in five experiencing significant anxiety.
In the past year and a half, most children spent more time at home than usual, notably when schools were closed. Even when children were allowed to spend time with friends, there were often restrictions in place, such as being outdoors or keeping a mask on, and staying socially distant.
For some children, these restrictions can increase stress associated with interactions outside of their family.
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Braver Stronger Smarter: A Girls Guide To Overcoming Worry And Anxiety
- Sissy Goff
Research has found that young girls may be more vulnerable to anxiety than boys. While we dont yet know why that is, its reason enough for a book about anxiety written specifically for girls that addresses some of the worries they may face.
Braver, Stronger, Smarter does just that. It empowers girls with a guide about overcoming anxiety that was written just for them.
Why we like it
- Its part workbook, part instruction manual, part motivational tool and all engaging.
- Rather than painting girls, or people with anxiety, as weak, this book reminds young readers of just how powerful they are.
- Dawn Huebner
- Illustrated by: Kate McHale
The tween years are a tricky period. Kids this age are trying to balance their childhood with a desire to grow up, often volleying back and forth between the two.
Outsmarting Worry is a book that understands that. It walks the line with tween readers in a way that can help them feel understood.
For those who think theyve outgrown the picture books and silly stories, this is the book that will give them a better understanding of anxiety at a level that doesnt make them feel talked down to.
Why we like it
Help Your Child Face Their Fears
This is the fine line every parent, caregiver and teacher must walk with a child struggling with anxiety. You must respect the child’s fear, but that does not mean giving in to the fear.
“I think our initial reaction when we see an anxious child is to help them and protect them and not to push them or encourage them to do the things that they’re afraid of,” Pine says. But, he adds, one of the things researchers have learned from years of studying anxiety in children is “how important it is to face your fears.”
This might be hard for some parents to hear, but we heard it from every expert we interviewed. As to why it’s important to face your fears, Lewis says, “the more that you avoid or don’t do certain things, it’s almost implicitly teaching the child that there is a reason to be anxious or afraid if we’re not doing the things that are difficult. It’s sending this message that, ‘Oh well, there is potentially a dangerous component to this.’ ”
So it’s important, Lewis says, “that children understand that things are gonna be difficult in life. Things can be scary. We can do them. … I tell some of my patients, ‘You can feel scared. That’s OK. We’re gonna do it anyway.’ “
And Truglio agrees. While we do have to validate our kids’ feeling of fearfulness, she says, “we can’t always give in to this feeling. … You need to push them a little bit. And there’s this fine line: You can’t push so far, because that’s going to break them, right? They’re going to fall apart even more.”
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Manage Stress With Mindfulness
It can be very difficult to communicate a sense of calm to your child when you are struggling to cope with your own anxiety.
When we are feeling anxious, we start worrying about what might happen in the future all those what ifs. To avoid getting caught up in worries about the future, try practicing mindfulness, which is a technique for focusing on the present. Here are two common mindfulness techniques to try:
- Squeeze Muscles: Starting at your toes, pick one muscle and squeeze it tight. Count to five. Release, and notice how your body changes. Repeat exercise moving up your body.
- Belly Breathing: Put one hand on your stomach and one hand on your chest. Slowly breathe in from your stomach and slowly breathe out .
You can try to practice mindfulness in the moment when youre feeling anxious, but it is also a good idea to set aside time to be mindful every day. Regular practice will help you use the techniques more effectively when you really need them, and it can also make you feel calmer in general.
Causes Of Childhood Anxiety Disorder
According to the National Institutes of Mental Health , both genetic and environmental factors contribute to the risk of developing an anxiety disorder. Research shows that biology, biochemistry, life situations, and learned behaviors all play a role. Many anxious kids have anxious family members, says Alvord. Children model behaviors on what they see, she adds.
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