Helping Your Child Overcome Low Level Anxiety
Anxiety can be a crippling and debilitating condition for many children. However, there are many cases where anxiety exists but isn’t causing enough of a problem to warrant therapeutic intervention. In the cases where low-level anxiety is present, it is recommended to begin tackling this issue by initially thinking about the practical aspects of a child’s life that can be adjusted in order to help them have better control over their emotional state. Below I have listed some suggestions about simple everyday anxiety triggers that can be corrected with a little bit of working commitment.
Is your child going to bed at a reasonable time? Sleep (or lack of) can be a massive catalyst to an anxious state and is simple to rectify. Your child needs to have a consistent bedtime. If you notice that their anxious state begins on Mondays or Tuesdays (in other words, at the start of the week) consider the impact that having a later night over the weekend might be having, as their sleep bank is depleted from having less sleep over the weekends. It’s tempting to offer a bit more freedom and flexibility at the weekends, but sometimes this can have a knock-on effect on the preceding week.
2. Screen time
Viewing screens causes your child to be in front of what is known as blue light, which produces melatonin. This is a chemical that allows our bodies to relax and to be able to sleep well at night. So if your child is on the iPad before they go to bed, then this may have an effect on point one above in that your child is having difficulty going to sleep at night time. You should be disengaging them from digital screens, including phones, at least 2 hours prior to bedtime. It’s worth considering too, the quality and quantity of what they are viewing when they are watching a screen. If for example, they are watching violent video games or even YouTube videos where there are certain pranks undertaken by their favourite YouTuber, this can all cause their physical body to get hyped up and rushed with adrenaline. If that adrenaline is not then used in an effective way, such as via exercise, it stays in their body and can sometimes be mistaken for a sense of anxiety.
You will notice that there is a theme, in that many of these points actually connect to each other. A child who has a high sugar diet is going to have more energy peaks. Those energy peaks may cause them again to have an overdose of adrenaline, which if not used up, can lead to them feeling really nervous or anxious. However, when a child has a high sugar diet they will also experience energy crashes. This is when their energy levels drop so drastically and unexpectedly that they can become extremely tired, lethargic, or even grumpy. The best way to avoid sugar crashes is to have a more natural, wholesome diet which has plenty of fruits and vegetables. This can help to sustain their energy levels over a more consistent time period.
4. Do they have worries around relationships? E.g. family or friendship groups
Sometimes there may be a low-level niggle in their mind which is causing them to feel stressed out and uptight, and this may be interpreted as anxiety. For example, a teacher that they feel like they do not gel with very well, and who may be a bit more ‘shouty’ and volatile, will cause some children to feel a greater sense of anxiety in the classroom than they may have felt in the previous academic year. Talking to your child about what things might be playing on their mind, or what they’re spending most of their time thinking about, might offer you some insight. Sometimes parents will identify behaviour or reaction as anxiety, but this may not be the correct wording that the child uses to describe their experience. If you ask your child what’s making them anxious and they don’t seem to know, try using a different word. If you ask your child what makes them feel uncomfortable or unhappy, they might go some way to revealing what they are thinking about, and what thoughts are causing them to have these problems.
5. Is your child beating themselves up / putting themselves down?
Sometimes children compare themselves to other children. That could be academically, on a social level, or even a financial level. If your child is comparing themselves to others or noticing or believing that they fall short of what others around them have/have to offer, then this could cause them to be in a state of anxiety. As per point 4, casual conversations with your child to help reveal more about how they are thinking and feeling, will allow you to identify the root cause of where these thoughts are coming from, help them to develop more favourable representations of themselves, and to help them converse with themselves in a more kind way. When we talk to ourselves with kindness and positivity, it’s just the same as when other people talk to us with kindness and positivity – it makes us feel good. Without meaning to, your child might be making themselves feel bad about themselves, thus causing their own anxiety unnecessarily.
Sometimes having these conversations with your child is a challenge because as a parent, you are seen in a very special and specific role, which is being their parent and not necessarily being their therapist or counsellor. For this reason, it can be sometimes beneficial to seek outside help. As a child therapist based in Essex, I offer one to one sessions for children and families who are experiencing issues such as anxiety. I am based in Crays Hill, but I also cover locations such as Basildon, Billericay, Brentwood, Chelmsford, Colchester, Southend-on-sea, and Wickford.
If you would like to find out more about the work that I do, then please contact my PA Olivia on 07958 203 274.
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