By Julia Cook, McClatchy-Tribune News Service
Has your child seemed to develop a sudden unrealistic worry about everyday events? Does he/she constantly seek out reassurance from authority figures? Is your child having trouble sleeping? Does your child worry about things before they happen? Are you noticing overly repetitive behaviors? Does your child experience constant worries about family, school, or activities?
If your answer is “yes” to one or more of the questions above, your child may be suffering from the effects of anxiety. Anxiety is considered to be America’s number one health problem. It is defined as a feeling of apprehension and fear characterized by physical symptoms such as palpitations, sweating, irritability and feelings of stress. Although quite common, anxiety disorders in children are often misdiagnosed and overlooked. Symptoms of anxiety may manifest as behavioral problems due to a child’s inability to express feelings authentically. Fear, worry, and apprehension are feelings felt by everyone from time to time and are considered to be healthy, but when these feelings keep children from doing things that they want or need to do, anxiety can become a disability.
If you have an anxious child, here are a few tips that might help:
- Genuinely accept your child’s concerns.
- Listen to your child’s perceptions and gently correct misinformation.
- Patiently encourage your child to approach a feared situation one step at a time until it becomes familiar and manageable.
- Always try to get your child to events on time, or early – being late elevates anxiety.
- Continually set equal expectations for all kids anxious or not. Expecting a child to be anxious will only encourage anxiety.
- Role-play strategies – how to react in certain situations. – Explore both best case scenarios and worst case scenarios using realistic evidence.
- Build your child’s personal strengths.
- Help your child organize their school materials for the next day the night before.
- Allow and encourage your child to do things on his own.
- Try not to pass your own fears onto your child. – Anxious parents often have anxious children.
- Work together as a team (family members, teachers, child, day-care providers etc.)
- Set consequences – don’t confuse anxiety with other types of inappropriate behavior. Set limits and consequences so that you don’t allow anxiety to enable your child.
- Have reasonable expectations.
- - Consult your child’s physician if symptoms persist.
If your child is struggling with anxiety, it is always better to be proactive than reactive. If untreated, symptoms of anxiety in children can lead to an even more debilitating future.
Award-winning children’s book author, Julia Cook, is a former teacher and school guidance counselor. Her latest release – “Wilma Jean the Worry Machine,” offers creative strategies for parents and teachers to use that can lessen the severity of anxiety. The goal behind all of Julia’s books is to actively involve her readers into her fun and creative stories, and teach them how to become life-long problem solvers. Inspirations for her books come from working with children and carefully listening to parents and teachers. To learn more about Julia Cook and her books, such as “Wilma Jean the Worry Machine,” visit http://www.ncyi.org/juliacook.