My son Jack was just seven years old when I was rushed into hospital with an abscess that had grown around my bowel. I was to be in hospital for over a month and during that time Jack would go from a confident outgoing child who ate well and slept well to a child that became introverted had trouble attending school and was living on fish fingers and yogurts by the time I came home.
Jack was suffering from anxiety and both my husband and I were going to have to work hard to get him back to his old self again. As a hypnotherapist, I had helped many children with anxiety so thankfully I knew what to do however it’s always a lot more stressful when it’s your own child and especially when you’re still recovering from being seriously ill.
So what is anxiety?
Anxiety is a completely normal feeling that we will all experience from time to time within our life. When we are faced with stress our body responds by releasing a hormone called adrenaline which I am sure everyone has experienced at some point. But what you may not know is this hormone causes a fight or flight response so that we are alert and ready to react to what’s in front of us. So, anxiety can be useful when we face a new stressful situation, however when does it change from being your friend to your foe?
Children and anxiety
All children and young adults feel anxious at times and this is an important part of their natural development as they grow up and learning their survival skills. We all have different levels of stress and how we cope with stress differs from child to child, however some are just naturally more anxious than others and are quicker to get stressed or worried. If you feel that your child’s anxiety is getting in the way of their day-to-day life, affecting their development or having a significant effect on their schooling or relationships, it’s best to try to help them tackle their feelings head-on.
How does anxiety affect our children physically?
Anxiety can cause numerous reactions in the body which can feel very unpleasant and sometimes overwhelming. These can include:
- Breathing fast or finding it hard to breathe
- Heart beating like it’s going to burst out of your chest
- Feeling shaky or sick
- Feeling dizzy or that you might faint
- Feeling sweaty
How does anxiety affect our children emotionally?
- Feeling scared and panicky
- Finding it hard concentrate
- Having issues with a sleeping or eating
- Having outbursts of anger very quickly that feels out of control
- Worries and negative feelings thoughts going constantly around our head
- Thinking that something bad is going to happen
- Lack of self-esteem and confidence feelings of embarrassment
We all cope differently with stress. For example, some of us can be more of a worrier than others, many parents whose children are anxious recognise that they too also can suffer with anxiety, and so are keen to support their children so that they don’t suffer the same way. Sometimes personality type and temperament could be a factor and simply some children are born more anxious or nervous the others. It’s important that we don’t blame game for reasons of anxiety as this is never useful and can often cause conflict instead of resolution.
Problems that can lead to child Anxiety
- Moving home and schools
- Seeing our parents arguably fighting or suffering abuse from parents and relatives of strangers can lead to anxiety
- Physical illness or injury if the two themselves or someone they care about
- Bullying at school
- School work or exams
- Friendship problems
- Involvement in crime gangs or drugs
- Worries about self-esteem how they look and how they are seen by their peers
What issues can anxiety lead to:
When a child suffers from anxiety it can affect the whole family. Both parents and siblings can feel that they are walking on egg shells and feeling constantly concerned that they may upset the anxious person. Anxious young people may become more isolated as they may not wish to go out in public, therefore find it hard to see friends and taking part in activities both in and out of school. This can affect their relationships and their emotional development.
Types of Anxiety
- School Based anxiety
- Social anxiety
- Separation anxiety
- Fears and Phobias
- Generalised Anxiety
- Panic Attacks
- Obsessions and Compulsions
- Selective Mutism
Now with my son Jack he was suffering with Separation Anxiety and felt sick a lot of the time and would often get very distressed whenever he was apart from me. So, first I taught him some relaxation techniques, then through using his own imagination he learnt how to take his body from an anxious state to a calm state. For jack his tummy was like a washing machine that was on fast spin and just by using his imagination jack focused on an imaginary dial to slow the spin down until it eventually came to a stop. Once stopped the door would open and all his clothes that represented his feelings would fly away and disappear forever. Overtime jack regained his confidence and even now if he feels anxious he will just close his eyes , breathe calmly and imagine his washing machine slowing down until he feels better!
Recommended website www.relaxkids.com