I visited my hairdresser this morning in need of feeling like a woman again! And you know how it goes, the conversations are endless. Sharing info, confiding or just having a good ol’ laugh. It’s therapy really.
So sitting there whilst she was weaving and foiling, we discussed our children, a discussion to and fro of their achievements and their failures. But what I took from that conversation is that a lot of our children are living with various degrees of anxiety.
So many variables contributes to making them feel vulnerable, scared and insecure. I bet at that small age when you feel like that, it can make anyone feel anxious and fearsome! To be fearful and scared of a situation or an event is normal in some degree but what happens when it starts to disrupt sleeping, eating and playtime? We need to step in and do what we can to try break the forming habit before it become concreted and becomes much harder to break.
Anxiety is when our worries hang around creating feelings in our minds and perhaps our body too. And how it starts is with a thought about a terrible thing or something bad which could happen, it gets stuck in your head and you can’t get rid of it. Then you might feel hot and sweaty, or have a huge lump in your throat or even a queazy tummy. These symptoms in turn can make you feel inadequate, and, you may not understand why or where it comes from. These reactions could be so strong that it gets in the way of you feeling at ease or simply enjoying life.
Talking, is in my mind the first place to start. When the child knows and understands that they can talk about anything which is scary or which in their mind has validation, half the battle is won. Having a trusting relationship with your little one has benefits for later years. A child that goes to its parent to talk about these ‘hard’ things and gets no support or empathy makes communication stations close down and they feel like their word has been discredited and means nothing.
My son used to say he would see red spots of light in his sleep and these spots would come closer and closer to him and then he would wake up crying. He would never want to sleep with lights closed or it would be so hard to get him to fall asleep again. But with lots of talking that these lights were just what one sees when you close your eyes it is nothing to be scared of, he slowly got over it.
Great questions to ask your child once you have tried to settle them and they are relaxed and calm:
– Are you really in any danger? Can anything dangerous happen to you?
– What choice do you have to protect yourself or make yourself feel safe? Let’s take a fear of spiders for an example. What can you do to help yourself from the spider? A) run away b) smack the spider with a slipper c) shoo it away d) call mommy or daddy for help. So by showing your child he or she may have options at their disposal to deal with his’ or hers’ fears, life won’t be so bad.
– Can you defend yourself and win? Talk about how small the spider is compared to how big they are or if it were an imaginary dragon, that that dragon in real life may be a weakling and have no real powers in real life like how a story shows them to be real and powerful, but they really are not.
– What could make them feel safe and calm. Encourage them to do more of that.
– Who or what could help? Having a fly squat near by to whack that spider, a comfort blankie or a favourite stuffed animal to protect them when sleeping.
– Lastly ask about this fear- is it a real danger or is it an imagined danger? Talk about how a dream could be imagined or a tarantula can be a real threat compared to a tiny house spider. Try understand that when their worries get big, their imagination comes up with really scary scenarios, making that danger feel even more real. Their bodies will react to what’s going on in their mind and not to what is actually going on.
Ways to help:
1. Get the crayon box and all the craft materials out and let your little one draw or make the ‘monster’ that’s starting them. Use materials, yarns, wools, cotton wool, sticks, buttons you name it, create it. Once it’s done it probably won’t even look scary anymore and could become a new friend! Or even something your child could laugh at. On another piece of paper let them draw times when their worries are present. What is their ‘worry time’ for example is it bed or on a train or sitting in the playground? And finally on a new sheet of paper get them to draw any options or strategies thy have to deal with their worries and fears. Drawing of a huge slipper to squash that spider or sitting with a friend in the playground…anything they can use to help them with their worry or fear.
2. Talk about how different people all over the world may have their own fears. Like on a bus point out that that man could be scared that he hasn’t made enough money to take home to feed his children, that little boy is probably so scared of spiders, that little girl is scared of the boogie man and that granny is scared she’s going to die soon because she is so old. By doing this you are showing that it’s normal to have fears and everyone can feel scared about things. Maybe that could help ossify the intensity of his or her fear.
3. Another chat which should be spoken about is that when we started off in the world man used to have to face really scary situations in his time like when he would go hunt to take food home he would have to face a wild animal. So when we are faced with a scary moment or something that makes us scared we want to either run away so fast, completely freeze up or find a quick solution to protect ourselves. So having said this, ask your child so what can we do if we see a spider? Do we a) run away b) freeze and panic c) take a slipper and whack it? Show them that we have options and we should choose solutions that could make us feel good at the end and make them feel in control or have power.
Living with anxiety can be deliberating and take away a lot of fun and freedom your child could be experiencing. Take positive steps to help them overcome their fears even if in your mind they may seem silly or immature. It’s always about them and how they feel.