Helping Kids Deal With Anxiety
For many kids around the world, September is the start of school, either starting school or going up to a new year which may mean new classmates and teacher. This can often trigger kids anxiety, which means there are parents all around the globe tackling their kids starting school anxiety. Most kids will take this in their stride, of course, there will be first day nerves but some kids just bite the bullet and do it.
For others, there will be tears and tantrums and not wanting to leave the house. Of course, this can be a problem and in most cases, after a couple of days, the drama is over.
Then there is the third group of kids, the ones who are anxious but don’t appear to show it. You might ask them if they are excited about starting school and they will say yes but deep down they are worried and it shows in other ways. Suddenly starting to wet the bed after months of being dry or a change in behaviour, out of character tantrums or angry outbursts. Getting into fights when normally they avoid them or not wanting to go and play with their friends choosing instead to play alone in their room. Nightmares or tummy aches can also be signs of anxiety.
So what can you do to help your little one?
1. Practice Relaxation Techniques- Step 1 to help with kids anxiety
Together do some deep breathing, with you deep breathing too you can ask your child to match your breaths. Guided meditations are also great for this, sit or lie somewhere quiet and in a gentle voice as them to think about what they can hear, smell and feel alternatively ask them to think about a tranquil place, sitting at the beach or under a tree in the garden and repeat the exercise. Once the child has learned how to do this, they can use it by themselves whenever they feel anxious.
2. Express Their Fears- step 2 for helping with kids anxiety
Instead of telling them that they are a “Big brave boy” or that “They’re not scared” talk about what it is that is bothering them. It might seem like something silly to you but it is obviously a big deal to them. Once you know what the underlying issue is, you can deal with it.
“What if the teacher doesn’t like me?”
“What if I need to go to the toilet in class time?”
“What if I don’t have any friends or no one will like me?”
“What if I do something wrong?”
Often these are the same sort of worries that we, as adults have when we start a new job! Sometimes they might come out with something totally obscure, maybe they heard older kids talking or picked up the wrong idea. Having an open dialogue at this age will also help when your kids are older, they will know that they can come and talk to you if and when they need to.
3. Face Your Fears- step 3 for helping kids anxiety
Kids learn from their parents, so let them see when you are afraid and how you face your fears. This can be anything but by showing your child that you are brave they are more likely to follow in your footsteps. Remember to talk your way through it, tell your kid whats scary and how great you feel afterwards when you have conquered it.
When it comes to helping your child face their fear, you need to take it at their pace with a firm but gentle hand to guide them, not a quick shove from behind. They need to feel in control and that you are supporting them to take it in baby steps, they need to know that you are a team and that you have their back.
When it comes to starting school, maybe do a couple of test runs before the big day and explain how everything happens, what will happen when you drop them off – ask friends with older kids what the routine is when they enter the school if you don’t actually know yourself. Older children can make great teachers!
4. Celebrate Being Brave
When your child has done something brave, celebrate it. High fives, hugs and well-done kiddo, cheers all round! Read books or watch films with brave characters and talk about what they did to conquer their fear or anxiety. On the flip side, don’t get angry or annoyed if the child backs out, you need to be there to support them not make them feel even worse! With school, you can explain that all the other children are a little bit scared too so they are not alone and talk about other times when they were nervous at first but it all turned out OK.
5. For Kids Already At School
Sometimes your kid might be well settled at school but something will trigger their anxiety attacks, maybe an incident where they were embarrassed in front of the class, struggling with a particular subject, PE or swimming often is a trigger for kids when their body starts to change or if they are being bullied (You can read what happened to Ebi-kun and the bullying incident here)
If your child starts complaining of a tummy ache on the same day each week, chances are there is something bothering them at school. If it is a physical complaint, of course, get it checked out at the doctors too and if the symptoms get worse then it is time to seek professional advice.
One of the mantras that I use in the My Organized Chaos program is ‘think like a child’ by doing this and seeing things from their point of view. Then maybe taking a trip down memory lane yourself you will be able to relate better to how they are feeling. Starting school is a whole new world both scary and exciting, help them enjoy the ride!
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