Unfortunately, anxiety isn’t always that obvious. Some children do not vocalise their worries. They do not show their fears. And anxiety is not on the parents’ radar.
Anxiety isn’t just in our minds, it is in our body as well. Here are just a few examples- Your child will not go to the toilet. They may have been constipated for weeks. You have been to the doctor and there is no medical origin.
Your child’s stomach hurts. They feel like throwing up. They are having gastrointestinal problems. You brought them to the paediatrician. You went to the gastrointestinal specialist. Your child has been poked, prodded and maybe even scoped. No medical origin has been found.
Anxiety is not just in the mind, it can be felt in the body as well.
Your child used to love school. They have always had friends and they have always created great work. Now it is a battle just to get them in the car. They tell you they do not feel well. Their stomach hurts. They say they are going to throw up. You keep them home – only to feel bamboozled because they seem fine shortly thereafter.
You talk to the teacher and possibly a counsellor. Everyone informs you that your child has friends. That they are not being bullied. That they enjoy school.
Weekends are pain-free. Your child seems completely healthy – and then Sunday rolls around. The cycle begins again.
Anger can be tricky. Kids can be angry for so many reasons. They might have difficulty self-regulating. They might have a mood issue. They might have a hard time accepting no. But along with the usual contenders, anxiety can be the underlining cause of anger too.
If your child stuffs their worries way down deep – the only thing to bubble to the surface might be their anger.
They come home from school ready to explode. Bedtime brings with it rage and resistance. New situations cause unusual hostility and defiance.
Pay attention to when and why your child gets angry – as it could be the key to unearthing the true cause.
AVOIDANCE OF ACTIVITIES:
Your child used to love football practice and now they are refusing to go. Your child said they wanted to take swim lessons, but after the first lesson you cannot get them back to class. Your child always wants to stay home and refuses to go to restaurants and stores with you.
When a child starts avoiding situations they used to enjoy – it is time to take a second look at why. It might be that they simply no longer like soccer or swim class – but it might be something more significant.
The number one, unhealthiest, go-to coping mechanism for anxiety is AVOIDANCE. Avoid at all costs!
If I do not go to football, then I won’t have to worry about the ball hitting my face.
If I say I do not want to go to swim, then I won’t have to worry about sinking to the bottom of the pool.
If I put up a big fight – then I won’t have to go to the restaurant and worry about throwing up in public.
ROUTINES VERSUS RITUALS:
Your child has to line up all their stuffed animals in a perfect row before they go to bed. You have to say “I love you” in a certain way – for a certain number of times – before your child will go to bed.
Parents often mistake ritualistic behaviour for routines. Routines are comforting and predictable. Rituals are rigid and need to be redone if not done “correctly.” Routines are a healthy part of childhood – rituals can be an indication of anxiety.
WHAT CAN I DO IF I THINK MY CHILD HAS ANXIETY?:
Anxiety is a very treatable condition. The earlier children get help – the better the prognosis in the long run. If you feel like your child is having some signs of anxiety, pop in to school and have a chat with a member of staff who can help, or seek out the advice of a mental health professional. It can never hurt to get some professional input and guidance.
Educate yourself and find support and resources on the web. Watch parenting videos. Think outside of the box. You can use mindfulness, art, music, nature and other activities to help reduce your child’s anxiety. You can find some ideas on the Young Minds website:
Information from: www.anxioustoddlers.com