Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Does your child worry?

My first born is a worrier. It is quite constant. It affects her physically and her confidence. As an adult diagnosed with Anxiety disorder I know the effects anxiety can have. Taking more control and responsibility of your thoughts and fears can be a huge help.

Worry is a part of life - and even described as normal and necessary. To fear new and unfamiliar circumstances is part of our survival tactics. There are so many things you will encounter in life that you might stress or worry about, or which will cause you anxiety. But, to not push past the worry will rob you of so many experiences and opportunities in life. It's all about managing your fears and putting them aside. Sometimes, easier said than done.

There are so many things to fear as a child. As an infant, everything is new and unfamiliar. In early childhood, there can be separation anxiety, and then as the child moves into new and unfamiliar situations they may come across new fears. Children in this group are still trying to get a grip on the difference between real and make-believe. They are also consumed with things that could be which involves things that go bump in the night and fear of the dark. Children in school are exposed to dangers and risks of the world as they learn about illness, fire, storms, etc. Then quite quickly, they have concerns about performance and where they stand socially. These fears and concerns are all normal.

Not so normal worry. The following list is supplied on the Worrywisekids webpage
Common Red flags
Demonstrating excessive distress out of proportion to the situation: crying, physical symptoms, sadness, anger, frustration, hopelessness, embarrassment
  • Easily distressed, or agitated when in a stressful situation
  • Repetitive reassurance questions, "what if" concerns, inconsolable, won't respond to logical arguments
  • Headaches, stomachaches, regularly too sick to go to school
  • Anticipatory anxiety, worrying hours, days, weeks ahead
  • Disruptions of sleep with difficulty falling asleep, frequent nightmares, difficulty sleeping alone
  • Perfectionism, self-critical, very high standards that make nothing good enough
  • Overly-responsible, people pleasing, excessive concern that others are upset with him or her, unnecessary apologising
  • Demonstrating excessive avoidance, refuses to participate in expected activities, refusal to attend school
  • Disruption of child or family functioning, difficulty with going to school, friend's houses, religious activities, family gatherings, errands, vacations
  • Excessive time spent consoling child about distress with ordinary situations, excessive time coaxing child to do normal activities- homework, hygiene, meals
In this article the authors of I Just Want To Be Me, Sandra and Tim Bowden, talk about not accepting your thoughts as being always correct, and questioning them. Also, asking what sort of person you want to be, and working towards that can be helpful in building confidence. If stuck in a negative thought process, going back to basics is helpful, by pulling yourself into the present of what can be seen, heard, felt instead of what if, and maybe.

The first step to helping your child is recognition of the problem. It is important to guide, reassure and take things in bite size steps. Positive reassurance of their strengths and achievements is important. Often saying things out loud helps the child, as is role-playing. Always let your child know to give something a go, and resist doing things for them. And very importantly, try not to pass your own fears on to your child.