More and more I hear from friends and colleagues about how much worrying and anxiety their children experience on a regular basis. In talking randomly with my daughter’s teacher about the type of work that I do, he mentioned that with every year of teaching, more and more of his students are struggling with worries, fears and phobias.
Is this a new phenomenon, or are we just able to label the diagnosis more accurately?
Being able to correctly identify the difficulties your children are experiencing impacts the way in which you choose to parent them.
For instance, it is very important to distinguish the different reasons your children appear to be ignoring instruction. Are they anxious? Are they defiant? Are they lazy? Or are they merely so distracted by what is worrying them that they cannot focus on anything else at that moment?
Disciplining a defiant child is a lot different from disciplining a worrying child, even if the presenting behavior is the same. Parents might have to use various forms of discipline with each of their children to ‘punish’ for the same ‘crime’.
So what can we do to help these children?
Anxiety as a disorder does not go away. Kids who worry suffer from low self-esteem more often than other children. They need to be empowered. They need to feel in control. They need to be loved for who they are. Telling them everything will be ok, or to not be so sensitive, etc., will not only not help them, but could in fact hurt them. We cannot ignore their feelings, and we have to praise them like crazy.
There are also many teachable techniques that can be used with children to help them overcome their worries. Most of the techniques, which are the quickest to learn and have the most successful outcomes, are from within the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) framework. CBT is a type of therapy that has proven to be highly effective to treat anxiety in both adults and children.
Progressive muscle relaxation, deep diaphragm breathing and various forms of hypnosis are just some of the exercises within CBT, which can help your children. In addition, continued exposure and opportunities to face their fears are always encouraged. If kids see that they can succeed at something that they were reluctant to even try, this will be a huge boost to their self esteem and ability to better face this fear the next time. If they tend to worry about the same things over and over, remind them of their past successes.
With the proper support and with the proper guidance from a professional, children can learn to cope with their fears or worries. We cannot always be there to ‘save our kids’.
Over time, as our children mature, it is hoped that with practice and exposure, that these techniques become ingrained within them and they are capable of implementing them on their own.
As adults, people might complain that while they were growing up their parents were too strict or too protective or that they did not get to do all that they wanted. You will never hear anyone complain that they were too loved or too accepted for who they are and the person they have become.
For more specific instructions on how to implement cognitive behavioral therapy, and how it can help those suffering from anxiety, please feel free to get in touch with me.
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