Anxiety: Part II

The most comforting thing for kids is routine.  Routines make life predictable and this predictability is especially important for kids who experience anxiety.  Anxious kids do not like surprises.  Establish routines around bedtime and getting ready in the morning. It’s a good idea to post these where kids can see them and refer to them.  It also helps them to become more independent.  Here is a sample of what a routine chart might look like. Taking pictures of your child doing these tasks may be fun! (It didn’t format quite right but I think you get the picture.)

7:45  Get dressed

7:55  Make bed

8:05  Eat breakfast

8:30 Brush teeth

etc…….

Deep belly breathing is a skill that is never too early to learn and it helps reduce anxiety.  A younger child can take a deep breath in through his/her nose and then pretend that he/she is blowing bubbles, trying to blow the biggest bubble possible.  As the child is inhaling, he/she should focus on filling his/her belly and feel it rising.   Another way to encourage deep breathing is to have your child pretend to blow up a balloon slowly.  Older children can do “square” breathing.  They inhale into their bellies to the count of 4, hold for 4, exhale for 4 , hold for 4, and this completes one “square”.  They can do this as many times as needed.

Initially, trying to have your child do deep breathing while he/she is experiencing anxiety is not advisable.  It is something that should be practiced when the child is calm and a good time to practice this breathing is when the child is in bed.  It can be part of the bedtime routine and serves 2 purposes: to practice the breathing and it also calms the child, making it easier to fall asleep.

Anxious children often have difficulty falling asleep.  There are several books with guided meditations for children that can be done with them at bedtime.  Moonbeams: A Book of Meditations for Children by Maureen Garth is one such book that I have used.

Let me know how this works for you.

Anxiety: Part 1

Anxiety, stress, fears, worries or whatever name you want to give it, is something that we live with everyday.  Anxiety is the fuel that gets us going.  Do you work better under pressure?  This is anxiety.  How to you know to step out of the way of a car speeding down the street?  Yes, that’s right, anxiety.  It is our “fight or flight” reaction.  There are times, however, when anxiety is not our friend and when it takes over and prevents us from leading our regular, everyday lives.

As children grow and develop they pass through different stages and each of these stages comes with fears that children develop and then they outgrow.  In infancy children are afraid of loud noises and strangers.  In early childhood we find that children have separation anxiety so that when a parent even leaves the room for a moment, the child will become distressed and cry.  They are also afraid monsters and new situations are stressful for them.  In middle childhood, real world dangers are frightening, such as war or earthquakes.  New challenges are anxiety provoking as well.  Finally, adolescents worry about social status and fitting in, finding a group to belong to and they experience anxiety around tasks involving their performance, whether it be a class presentation, completing a project or writing a test.

Each set of fears disappears as children grow out of one developmental stage and into the next only to find that there are new things to worry about!  The key here is that children outgrow these fears but if they persist and interfere with their everyday lives, then your child may have an anxiety disorder.  This means that your child may seek constant assurance and be afraid to try anything on his/her own. Does your child consistently avoid certain activities that other kids his/her age are enjoying or avoid doing them without a parent?  Your child may have a lot of headaches or stomach aches and you may find yourself at the doctor’s a lot with your child.  Does your child have any daily repetitive rituals?  If you see these behaviours and they persist for several weeks seek the opinion of your family doctor for a diagnosis.

See Part 2 for what to do to help your child with anxiety.