I was honored this month to present to parents of Mary Collins at Cherry Valley School on how to support an anxious 10-14 year old kid. Once again, parents asked many great questions and stayed after to chat about the information.
With that said, I would like to pass along a few pearls of wisdom shared with this lovely community by myself and colleague Marcus Moore, MFT.
I meet with many children and adults who simply want their anxiety to go away. But the reality is, we all have anxiety and to a certain degree, it is helpful in alerting us to danger and helping us to be safe. For example, if you are walking down a dark street and someone starts walking behind you, you may begin to feel anxious. This is a good form of anxiety as it keeps you on your toes and may cause you to go into a store front or call someone on your cell phone to let them know where you are.
Where anxiety falters is when you experience perceived danger but actually are not in any or the amount you are perceiving is over the top. For example, if you begin to feel highly anxious every time you walk down the street and feel everyone behind you is a threat, the danger you are perceiving may be inaccurate. Of course, there are certain factors that could play into this scenario and make the danger real.
One of the first things to look at when dealing with anxiety is taking a look at whether your child actually is in danger. If a child is fearful to go to school and really is being bullied, then the anxiety the child is feeling may be warranted. Or if a teen is threatened to be hurt by someone, then the anxiety they are experiencing is warranted and appropriate action to ameliorate the danger is needed.
Another way kids can be in danger is if they are feeling suicidal and/or doing self harm. Some kids with anxiety also experience depression and can lead to thoughts of death or self-harm behaviors. It may be important to ask your child if they are feeling depressed and if they have ever thought about ending their own life or are hurting themselves in any way. I know this is a hard question to ask but a very important one.
Many parents have anxious children and wonder when they should actually be concerned. I recommend taking note of how anxiety is impacting their daily functioning. If the anxiety is greatly effecting their home, school, and/or social life, it might be time to make some changes by talking with a professional at their school or privately and/or getting some self-help resources. Things to look for include:
- Friendships-Making/keeping friends
- School-Refusing to go, hard to get out of bed
- Relationships- Disconnection, frequent arguments
- Activities- Withdrawal, decreased energy and performance
- Inability to do things wanting to do-Won’t/cannot do something
- Sleep- Too much, disrupted, or unable
- Eating- Too much or too little, changes in regular appetite, gaining or losing weight without intention, comfort eating
- Safety- Child becomes suicidal or starts self-harm AKA cutting
- Panic Attacks
- Somatic Complaints (i.e. stomach aches, headaches, heart palpitations)
Help is available when it comes to managing anxiety and depression. Please check out my website for more information and resources to help support you and your child.
I have the ability to support my child in the ups and downs of life.