Do you struggle with anxiety? I do. I’m worst-case-scenario girl. If there’s a noise in the car, I jump to the fear a repair will cost hundreds of dollars. If the toilet flushes funny once, I fear septic issues and see dollar signs. Most of my anxieties are money related. And they’re also futile. The car noise doesn’t necessarily mean a hefty repair bill. It doesn’t even mean there’s a repair necessary at all. Same with the toilet! But since money is one of my hot-button issues, I jump to fearful and usually ridiculous (thankfully) assumptions and become quite anxious about it all.
Children do the same thing. They ruminate. They become anxious and feel out of sorts. I was an anxious child. Any time a situation presented itself that was outside my comfort zone, I’d develop anxiety. That usually showed up in the form of a fearful little girl with a stomach ache. Maybe it should be no surprise that I have Crohn’s disease now. But any circumstance that was beyond my comfort zone or my “comfort people” (my family and close friends), was uncomfortable for me.
My children sometimes have anxiety as well. Is it familial? Hereditary? It makes you wonder, doesn’t it? Their anxiety seemed more situational to me: they developed anxiety after their father passed away.
Just like adults, when children become anxious they can sweat, become very nervous, have an upset stomach, headache, difficulty sleeping. If this becomes obsessive and is becoming a major issue for your child, you may want to consider seeking the help of a therapist or your family physician. If it’s more manageable at home, be a compassionate listener for your child.
Be calm. If you’re anxious, they will be too. Even if you don’t exhibit outward signs, children can sense the tension. Speak in a calm and comforting tone to your child.
Acknowledge what they’re anxious about; “I know you’re concerned about the math test” but break it down for them. What if they don’t do well? Can they retake the test? Is it the end of the world? It isn’t. They can get extra help and so on. Try to ease their anxiety by dismantling the fear.
Have a plan. When my son was experiencing anxiety after my first husband’s passing, we developed a plan with his teacher. He was in third grade at the time and would sometimes unexpectedly feel sad or overwhelmed and just need “out.” He and his teacher had a code and when he signaled, his teacher knew he just need a breather and he’d go hang out with the guidance counselor for a bit and then return to class. No special attention was paid to him and none of his classmates were the wiser. He didn’t need to use the signal very many times, but knowing that he could alleviated a lot of his anxiety.
Breath prayers. This may not apply to younger children, but breath prayers can help just as simply taking deep, soothing breaths to calm the anxiety. A simple way: Breathe in saying (aloud or silently to oneself) “Do not be anxious” (breath out) “about anything.” You get the idea.
Pray. Pray with your child about what’s causing their anxiety. Whatever the situation is, pray together. Doesn’t it give you considerable comfort when you know a friend is praying for you or better yet, with you? More than likely, it will offer your child a great deal of comfort as well. It also empowers them to pray for themselves.
Overall, be understanding of your child. Dismissing their worries and anxieties will only make it worse and no one wants that. Be a source of understanding, comfort, and of course, help, whatever type they may need.
Meet Melanie P:
Melanie Pickett is a writer and blogger and is currently completing her first nonfiction book. She has battled Crohn’s disease and complications, has a now-healthy son who was born prematurely under challenging circumstances, and survived a 15-year abusive marriage and her first husband’s mental illness and eventual suicide. A wife and mother of two, she loves Red Wings hockey, reading, playing piano, and traveling adventures.