As we approach the holidays, many of us get a bit anxious as we try to create the "perfect" Christmas for our loved ones. We know this can be impossible; there are always disappointments and challenges to "get it right" but we keep on trying.
Can you imagine how that message gets to our anxious children. Is "perfection" crippling our children? Getting A's, making important teams, having the "perfect" friend, all of which can be overwhelming to many of our children.
Anxiety is the most common emotional problem in children and teens. Prolematic anxiety, which affects 13% or about 6.5 million children in America, can sidetrack youngsters from learning, making friends and having fun.
Anxiety is a normal part of childhood, and every child goes through phases. A phase is often temporary and usually harmless. But children who suffer from an specific anxiety disorder can experience fear, nervousness, and shyness, and then start to avoid places and activities.
So, how can we as parents identify and model what is normal anxiety and what is problematic?
- Talk with your child about feelings and fears; this will help to reduce them.
- Emphasize the positive aspects of being with friends, learning a favorite subject, and trying new things
- Try self-help methods with your child, like breathing exercises, yoga, daily walks in the neighborhood etc.
- Encourage hobbies and interests. Fun is relaxing, and hobbies are good distractions that help build self-confidence.
- Help your child establish a support system. A variety of people should be in your child’s life—other children as well as family members or teachers who are willing to talk with your child should the occasion arise. You don't have to do this all on your own.
If the problem intensifies and if your child's anxiety is interfering with his or her ability to function, it is prudent to seek professional consultation. Anxiety disorders are the most treatable mental health condition in children, and early intervention can prevent a lifetime of suffering.
Paying close attention to you child can help prevent more serious problems down the road.