Recognizing anxiety in children

 

Recognising your child’s anxiety and what to do about it.

Many parents are unaware of their child’s anxiety because it can be manifested as tantrums and defiant behaviour.

Anxiety can be a serious problem interfering with your child’s performance. If children are anxious, it makes it very difficult to learn. At Brave Heart Tutoring, effective, evidenced based interventions can be used to assist children if needs be. These commonly result in a real change in the level of anxiety a child feels.

 

How do you know if your child is anxious?

Some, if not most, children turn their anxiety into angry tantrums or defiant behaviours. Parents often respond with disapproval and discipline the child, thus entering into a vicious cycle which makes everyone more and more miserable and adds to the child’s anxiety.

Anxiety is a severe threat for health, and research has demonstrated that it worsens with time, if the person is not helped. It is important to look for signs of anxiety in order to be able to help.
The following checklist can help you observe your child and recognize anxiety. If you recognize at least five of these traits, you need to help your child:

  • Pessimism and negative thinking patterns, such as imagining the worst
    (E.g. Dad is going to have a car accident; my school peers are going to hurt me
  • Constant worry about things that might happen or have happened
  • Over-exaggerating the negatives
    (E.g. This bad thing ALWAYS happens to me)
  • Rigidity and inflexibility, self-criticism, guilty thoughts, etc.
    (E.g. I will never be able to do that, I will never know how to…)
  • Anger
  • Aggression
    (This is sometimes discreet, like quietly pushing a younger sibling or breaking someone’s property on purpose.)
  • Restlessness, irritability, tantrums
  • Opposition and defiance
  • Crying
  • Physical complaints such as stomach aches, headaches, fatigue, etc.
  • Avoidance behaviours, such as avoiding things or places or refusing to do things or go places
  • Sleeping difficulties, such as difficulty falling or staying asleep, nightmares, or night terror
  • Perfectionism
    (E.g. tearing off a drawing to redo it, or scratching out a line or a word till it can’t be seen before rewriting it)
  • Excessive clinginess and separation anxiety (can look like acting out to force the parent to cancel an appointment to stay home)
  • Procrastination
    (E.g. will start later, will finish in a moment…)
  • Poor memory and concentration
  • Withdrawal from activities and family interactions
    (E.g. hides to eat snacks, shows sudden aversions to some foods…)

How you can help them?

To help them reduce their anxiety at Brave Heart Tutoring, students work through an online program produced by the University of Queensland’s Psychology Department and sponsored by Beyond Blue.

In addition, work is done using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Mindfulness strategies. Results have shown students self-reporting improvements in their anxiety levels and improved ability to focus on schoolwork.

One boy I am working with, has ADHD and was very anxious because he believed he was not “normal”. After 5 sessions at Brave Heart Tutoring,  he now says “I have ADHD but I’m not worried about it now because I know most people have something wrong with them like asthma. Also I am improving at school so my ADHD isn’t stopping me.”

The video below shows strategies you can use to help your child deal with their anxiety.