Anxiety in Children
How to deal with, or avoid Anxiety in Children
So what is Anxiety?
A feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome.
So we all suffer from anxiety at some stage right? It’s a natural human response. How we deal with these thoughts in the first place is vitally important.
Anxiety in Children can, if not handled correctly then manifest over a short period of time into:
• GAD (generalised anxiety disorder)
• Social anxiety disorder,
• Panic attacks,
• Phobias, such as Ametophobia or agoraphobia
Anxiety is a erroneous thought pattern plain and simple, a feeling, emotion or behaviour arises firstly from a thought,
Symptoms for Anxiety in Children:
Shortness of breath
Here’s how Anxiety in Children can manifest itself:
All anxiety starts with an event, this may be big or small, it may have happened to the child in question, or they may have seen or heard about it happening to someone else. The point is this event starts a thought process, dependant on the quality of these thoughts is where it all begins.
Thoughts lead to emotions, it is impossible to have an emotion without having a thought first. So it’s the quality of those thoughts that can create a problem. Emotions then lead to behaviour, crying, shortness of breath, lack of sleep, being sick, violence, avoidance.
So if a child experiences an event and they have quality thoughts:
I am strong, I can deal with any situation, I am brave, I am clever, I am confident, you can see the way they might deal with it and you can imagine the outcome.
If a child experiences an event and they have poor quality thoughts:
I don’t want to, I can’t, I’m scared, I’m stupid, I don’t know what to do, you can see the difference in the way they may deal with it or not as the case may be.
To change a thought process there needs to be a suggestion and then repetition, it’s that simple. So we can have an influence in the kind of thoughts the child may have by stating quality statements, you are strong and your clever enough to cope with this, a good way of manifesting quality thoughts and beliefs are through guided visualisation/hypnotherapy recordings or books.
Gemma goes to a friends house to play she plays in a group and someone says something mean (AN EVENT) this upsets Gemma and she tells her parent. the next time Gemma is faced with a group situation Gemma states her worry to her parent and here there are two options:
Gemma is told “Oh well just this time you don’t have to play if you don’t want to”, Gemma sits out and watches, (negative coping mechanism = avoidance). The next time a group situation comes around Gemma uses the same tactics, this time parents might be a little more forceful but Gemma cries so the parents give in (avoidance) they don’t want a scene, If Gemma is smart she’ll start to use other coping mechanisms (manipulation) “I love spending time with you Mummy” “I don’t feel well, I want to stay at home” this can be repeated until Gemma avoids all situations and anxiety is born.
If a parent allows avoidance as a coping mechanism, this further manifests the belief in a child’s mind that the situation is dangerous.
Gemma has been taught that whenever anything unpleasant happens you avoid it.
Now there has been a synaptic connection made between neurons (a learning) Uncomfortable situation = coping mechanism = avoidance. All future situations will be dealt with this way, unless challenged.
Gemma is told firmly and kindly, they have to play. Gemma is given no get out clause, “I’m sure that won’t happen again”, Gemma is positively encouraged to get involved, maybe parents go over and say “Gemma’s a bit worried, you’ll all be kind to her won’t you?” Maybe she’s asked to imagine a positive outcome. Gemma gets involved and learns coping mechanisms to overcome difficult situations. This can be repeated with different coping mechanisms until Gemma is back in the group.
Gemma has been taught that whenever anything unpleasant happens you deal with it appropriately and carry on as normal.
Now there has been a synaptic connection made between neurons (a learning) Uncomfortable situation = coping mechanism = communication = happy outcome. All future situations will be dealt with this way, unless challenged.
So what happens when the Anxiety in Children has been fully manifested and avoidance behaviours are in place?
Utilising their imagination.
You need the child to want to change their behaviour, we program the brain by thoughts or imagining, if you can get your child to imagine them coping and positive outcomes to the situation, this starts creating new synaptic connections between neurons, the more these connections are used the stronger they get, i.e. the more they imagine the positive outcome the more they manifest that behaviour as a habit.
So start playing movies of the best possible outcome, ask them to describe it to you in detail, then ask them to go to bed and dream about it and tell you more in the morning.
Encourage positive thoughts and statements
A nice way to explain internal dialogue to children is using characters maybe a brave lion and nervous mouse, so who would you listen to? what would the brave lion say?
The negative thoughts create negative feelings, i.e. thoughts like, I’m scared of the dark, there might be a monster under the bed, someone in my wardrobe, is going to lead to feelings of panic and then behaviours of needing light. To tackle it we would sit with the child with the light on and check all areas, under bed, in wardrobe, so logic is on your side and then try and change the internal dialogue, maybe using the lion and mouse. Maybe giving them a toy to look after, maybe teddy’s a bit scared so if they could make sure that Teddy stays calm.
If they are anxious about an test positive statements would include, “you’ve learned everything you need to and you’re going to do so well”, “you are so clever, you’re doing so well at school” “ I think you’ll do great in this exam, i’m so proud of you and how much you’ve learned”
A good way of giving a child confidence is putting them in a position of power, asking them to look after someone else, this becomes their overriding thought, it’s your job as an older child in the class, or the biggest child, or the bravest child to look after all the others and make sure everyone gets along.
Get other people to collude, when they go to grandmas, “Oh I’ve noticed Gemma is getting confident and brave lately, yesterday they….”
Small manageable steps
Breaking things into small manageable steps is where the magic happens, if a child is scared of the dark you might chose to sit with them in the dark for 10 minutes, repeat until they feel comfortable, then the next step might be for them to sit in the dark for 5 minutes every night again until they feel comfortable, they need to see an end in sight, so if you decide to leave them in the dark this will have an adverse affect.
If they don’t do well in groups then after the positive imagination and statements have been practiced, you would encourage them to pay for 5 minutes and then they can sit back with you. Or you may go play with them for 2 minutes and then they do 2 minutes on their own, get their agreement, lots of encouragement “ you’re really brave, your doing great”
Give them a choice so they retain some control, how long do you think you can play for on your own? 5 minutes or 10?
It might be a challenge just to say hello to someone, small manageable steps
You know your child best, when you feel they are ready to take that first step, flood their mind with lots of encouragement and positive statements. “you’re going to make lots of friends aren’t you? you are getting braver each day aren’t you (getting their agreement) and go for it straight away, don’t give them time to rethink, keep their mind busy either talking about something different or on the positives. Once they have done the first step, ask them what the next step should be? obviously it’s got to be moving forward and get it done as soon as possible. Keep moving forward.
If you’re nervous or, if your worried about them failing you will pass that on to them, make sure you work on you, imagine the best outcome and expect the best outcome. You are their example of how to be in the world, if you are kind and outgoing so will they will be. if you’re anxious and worry so will they.
Allergies can have an affect or anxiety levels, so if your child has any other food allergies it may be useful to get this checked out by your Doctor. Also chemical sensitivities can all play a part, there are lots of aggravative chemicals in air freshers.
E numbers and sugars need to be consumed in moderation, fizzy drinks avoided altogether, poor diet and nutritional deficiencies can also play a major part.
A lack of sleep can raise anxiety levels rapidly.
Anxiety in Children – Conclusion
Never let your child avoid situations in the first place, acknowledge the event or fear, discuss it, teach them coping techniques, i.e. how would you deal with the same situation? boost them up with positive statements, get them to imagine the best outcome, be firm and get them back out there.
Check your child’s diet and general wellbeing, encourage meditation, its becoming huge in schools in the US now. See my range of Hypnotherapy for Children downloads below…
Anxiety in Children – Krystyna is available to book for a one to one hypnotherapy or coaching session in Guiseley, servicing surrounding areas, including ; leeds, Bradford, Pudsey, Otley, Ilkley, Horsforth, Meanwood, Alwoodley, Rodley, Bramley, Baildon, Shipley, Menston, Yeadon, Bingley, Bramhope, pool.