Anxious Moments or Something More

I am very excited to write to you today! I want to thank everyone who sent a parenting question.  I will be answering questions not chosen privately by email.

The question I chose from “Billy” asks if I have worked with children who had anxiety issues and what strategies I used.  I like this question because it is a bit tricky and I enjoy a challenge.

First, please understand it’s difficult for me to group children who have anxiety together. That’s because anxiety is an extremely broad topic.  Some children I worked with have shown signs of anxiety because of something that happened in school.  Depending on the circumstances, symptoms didn’t last very long.  Others though showed anxiety from severe abuse suffered long before they were in my care.  The symptoms were treated with medication and lasted for years.

I read from the Anxiety Disorders Association of America that it may be time to see a doctor if the issues last beyond a month and there are several treatment options.  I am not a medical professional but that seems like a good rule of thumb.  For the sake of this blog, I am going to pretend that the anxiety issues are less than a month old.

My first question to Billy is where does anxiety stem?  Did the child watch a scary movie?  Was there a death in the family?  Is there an upcoming test in school that has the child on edge?  Is there something on the child’s mind he/she doesn’t want to talk about but is driving them crazy? (Drugs, pregnancy)  Getting to the heart of the matter is often a good first step in anxiety relief.

My oldest child once hid a poor school note from me for two days.  The anxiety climaxed when he became physically sick while at school.  Basically, his teacher had confronted him because I had obviously not signed the note. Once I picked him up and he finally told me what happened, consequences were assessed due to the behavior but his anxiety was instantly relieved.

A second step to help a child relieve anxiety is to be a supportive listener.  When I was a child, I had a lot of anxiety issues due to not being popular and bullied at school.  My mother went with the “it will pass someday” philosophy.  Granted she was correct.  But, that “someday” turned out to be years later.  I can vividly remember examples of days when my stomach would be in knots and constant tension in my head that wouldn’t seem to go away.

Children I have subsequently worked with over the years have had the same issues I felt.  I found that being a good listener and advocating where I felt it was appropriate really assisted in anxiety relief.  When a child knows you are there for them and believes you can help, anxiety will typically be decreased.  The key though is the belief in you.  If a child doesn’t believe you can or are really willing to help, merely talking to you probably won’t be enough to relieve the anxiety.

On a side note, it is important to know a little anxiety is not a bad thing.  For example, anxiety can keep a child attentive while taking a test.  It can also give a child an extra pep in their step while on a football field.

There are a lot of things I am leaving out because this is a complex issue.  I encourage Billy and everyone who is interested to check out this website from the aforementioned Anxiety Disorders Association of America for more information.  I believe you will find the general tips helpful.

Housekeeping note:

I want to thank the people who take the time to read my material and pass it along to others.  Some of my recent articles have received more attention on Facebook and Twitter than I have ever seen. I’m thrilled you think enough of my work to share it with the people you know and love.

Have a super weekend and I’ll write to you again Tuesday.

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  1. Jessica @FoundtheMarbles says:

    I like how you addressed that anxiety is different in all children because for some, anxiety is innate and did not necessarily come from one major trigger.

  2. Becky Jane says:

    I agree, that a lot can be accomplished if the parent is a supportive listener. It's hard not to jump in and either fix everything or be judgmental. Thanks for sharing your insight! Happy weekend!

  3. I so agree that listening to our kids is vital.

  4. Kristina says:

    Your tips on dealing with kids' anxiety are great – especially the one about being a supportive listener… and sometimes that means listening for a very long time because they don't always have the skills or courage to get it all out at once – requires a lot of patience.
    Thanks for sharing your insights,

  5. Thank you for a great article on such a complex subject. I have always been an anxious person and my son has inherited it. Active listening and giving him a safe place to go to seem to help, I know it has always helped me. I love the story about your own son, somtimes it can be something we think of as small but to them it is such a huge burden. I always enjoy your advice, thanks.

  6. Finding the triggers is the best first step, which can hopefully be achieved with active listening. Some kids are more prone to anxiety than others, and there are some great strategies to help kids feel more in control of their anxious thought process.

  7. Brae says:

    Luckily, I haven’t had to deal with anxiety in my children, but I dealt with it as a child, and somewhere, sometime, this will come up. Thank you for a bit of advice, some tools, to help us all get through it. Great blog!

  8. Pamela says:

    wonderful tips-getting to the heart of the matter !

  9. MissMOE says:

    Great post. I am one of those people who have carried anxiety from childhood into adulthood. I think that stems from not having someone who listened as a child. Thankfully, I’ve learned to deal with my anxiety in a better manner as an adult. I’m a new follower and am looking forward to reading more articles.

  10. Raine says:

    I very much enjoyed your article as it reflects my own beliefs in that anxiety comes in many forms and can also be acted out in many different forms. in our home we make it a weekly goal to talk over how our week has been and share openly any concerns or anxieties we may have. My nine year old son has always felt that he can communicate to us about anything. we listen with out judgement or solutions and help him to come to his own resolutions. as you said in your article and I often tell me son, anxiety can sometimes be a good thing and can at times be a useful constructive tool for pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones. I believe as you do that being a great listener and having a safe environment for our children to open up in is worth the effort. After all these wonderful human beings our our next generation and we want them to be confindent and happy.