What You Can Do To Help Your Anxious Child
The story of Fitzi’s son has struck a chord with listeners with similar experiences of their young children suffering with anxiety.
Fitzi opened up about how his son Liam had recently complained about headaches, stomach cramps and a feeling like he was “going to be sick” when being dropped off at school.
You can read the full story here.
Fitzi said Liam was “stressed about keeping up and getting in trouble for not keeping up.”
The kicker? Liam is only six years old.
“So, we had headaches two days in a row, stomach cramps the day before, and he’s a regular boy and he hadn’t been to the toilet Monday or Tuesday… all the symptoms pointed to anxiety,” he said. “I don’t ever recall having anxiety at that age.”
“He’s in Year 1, and [the school] has this system with the orange note and the red note,” he had said.
“If you do something bad, you get an orange note, and if you do something really bad, you get a red note.
“Now that’s fair enough… but a couple of the kids have scored orange notes for working a bit slowly.”
Fitzi and his wife worked out that Liam’s anxiety was coming from his worry of getting an orange note (and his name on the board) because he wasn't working fast enough.
"He's SIX," Fitzi said.
After opening the phones, the 96FM Breakfast program was flooded with callers with similar stories such as Emma in Attadale: “My son was in kindy when it started. He was four and coming home saying he was dumb and couldn’t keep up. He ended up having meltdowns in class where he would just end up hysterical scribbling all over his work if he got something wrong.”
But it seemed that the problem was a trickle-down effect right from the top.
Jane, a teacher, also called in: “Teachers are trying their hardest to do the best for the children under their care, and yet they have their own pressures put upon them. I have recently learned of dozens of teachers would just cannot cope with the ridiculous expectations put down from various head offices… and it’s almost as though children are a business.”
Listen to the full clip here...
So what can you do? What does anxiety even look like in a small child?
Clinical psychologist Kirsten Bouse spoke to Carmen and Fitzi on Breakfast, these are her tips.
1. Encourage your child to share their worries with you instead of bottling them up
“We do know that the more you keep your anxiety to yourself the more overwhelming it gets,” Ms Bouse said.
If your child isn’t much of a talker, create a space at dinner time where everyone takes turns sharing something positive and negative from their day. You can then chat more to them about it at bedtime and find out more about what’s going on with them.
2. Reassure them they’re not weird, unusual or dumb
“I think it’s really important to share with children that anxiety is something that a lot of people, both adults and children, experience from time to time,” Bouse said.
“It’s really important to let them know that the feelings they’re having, based on the worries they’ve got in their mind, is pretty normal… we don’t want them worrying about worrying.”
3. Talk to your child about how they can manage their anxiety as it's happening
“So, if they’re worried about their name going on the board because they’ve talked in class or something, talk about how they can get their name off the board,” she said.
“Get them to tell you what the teachers say about that and what you can do about it.”
As part of anxiety is feeling out of control, this helps the child take it back.
“If you can help them find ways to feel as though there’s something they can do make themselves better and to fix the situation, the lower their anxiety.”
Listen to Kirsten Bouse here...