As a parent are you worried about your child’s emotional well-being?
Well you are not alone. Did you know that anxiety disorders are the number one mental health problem in children and youth?
So let’s talk about anxiety. Has living in a state of stress and anxiety become a new normal for our children? (And just to clarify when I speak of normal, I’m simply talking about something that is in their life every day. Because what’s really normal anyway…)
Think about it. Anxiety does have a very real purpose in life. It’s not all bad. It’s the way our body responds to perceived dangers. It can set off our fight, flight or freeze response – which can be useful in certain situations.
Children experience anxieties in different areas of life. It could be about homework, speaking in front of the class, competing for a spot on the football team, or even about a monster under the bed.
It is all about their perception of the danger… whether it is REAL or NOT. That’s what gets me all the time. My perception of the problem is so different from my child’s that I’ve caught myself many times dismissing their feelings. Have you ever caught yourself saying: “Don’t worry about it” or “Really… there is nothing to be anxious about”?
So, has anxiety become a new normal? Should you be worried? It actually can become a problem when it interferes with everyday life. Jennifer Kolari, a Toronto child and family therapist and founder of Connected Parenting states: “Anxiety becomes a problem when it interferes with your child’s sleep and daily activities, like school work or playing with friends”.
What anxiety signs should you be watching out for? Well they can range from tummy aches, headaches and nausea due to excessive worry, shortness of breath and a feeling of dizziness or light-headedness. There may also be changes in sleep, appetite and energy levels… just to name a few.
But the real question is how do you help your child cope with anxiety?
- It’s always good to ask for support. Talk to your family doctor.
- Early help can lead to better lifelong coping.
- It’s important to eat healthy and make physical activity part of every day.
- Listen to your child; don’t dismiss their feelings.
- Teach your child to spot their signs; this helps them know what is happening.
- Teach them deep breathing and imagery.
- Help them with ACCURATE thinking, not only positive thinking.
- Develop a strong support system.
It’s also important to role model your coping and relaxation techniques. Do you have any to share? What are your thoughts about anxiety in kids today?
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For parenting information or to speak with a Public Health Nurse (every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) Simply dial 311 or 905-825-6000.