Talking about anxiety.
This morning I went live in my Facebook group: 'Katie's Classroom - Honest Parent Chat' talking about anxiety. Please have a read of my anxiety chat - I think you'll find my email comforting...especially if you too have anxiety.
The email has a lot of tips for parents to help their child with anxiety but these tips can be used for anyone young or old.
*Reminder! Anxiety is horrible isn't it? It's horrible for children, teenagers, adults...everyone but remember this, it's incredibly common, we just still don't seem to talk about it enough, but I want you to remember that you're not alone.
A part of the brain that is really annoying!
Anxiety is all about the brain! There's part of the brain that looks for danger. It constantly scans everything for things we should worry about and it constantly tells us our worst fears and the what ifs. It's a survival mechanism but when you have anxiety this part of the brain gets really really loud, like a siren going of fin your brain and it is really annoying!
When this happens, when the worry bell rings, your anxiety knows exactly what will upset you the most (thanks brain!) and it gets stuck on this thought. It's like it's on a really bad tv channel. A tv channel you're having a really hard time switching off.
Anxiety is often like an alarm bell ringing every time it thinks we're in danger and we often believe what it tells us! We accept the fear and we don't question it or respond to it but we should and we need to.
Anxiety grows bigger when we listen to it and believe what it says and when we avoid it. The good news is that we can train our brain to think differently. Although what is happening is biological, we can quieten down this loud bell ringing.
What are the not so obvious signs of anxiety in our children?
Tummy ache. Anxiety will often hit the tummy first before it hits the brain.
Avoidance. A lot of the time children aren't able to articulate their anxiety. If I didn't know better I might sometimes think our son Harry is just obnoxious and oppositional but often this is just his anxiety talking.
Anger. A lot of anxious children look like angry children. Pay attention to when your child gets angry. When a child is stopping anxiety all day long they have to let it go at some point and this is often at home, after school. Anxiety will often come out in emotional outbursts, shouting, screaming and crying.
Sleep issues. Sleep is a massively common issue amongst anxious children.
Lots of questions. An anxious child might ask lots of questions. They are often plotters and planners so that they can mentally prepare for things.
6 things you can do to help yourself and your child with their anxiety.
Communicate. Communicate with your child. Communication is key. Being able to talk about anxiety with your anxious child is important. It might be difficult but keep on trying.
Externalise your child's anxiety. Take it outside of your child's mind and name it. It works! By personifying your child's anxiety you're giving your child something to target and something you can fight against together.
You have to tackle your child's thoughts. Tackle your child's irrational thoughts and misconceptions. Start by explaining anxiety is something to do with the brain and this will help your child reframe their thinking.
Explain to your child everybody has a worry bell or a Mr Worry inside their heads that will make them fear something that is irrational and doesn't make sense. Explain it is our job to fight back.
Explain we have red thoughts and green thoughts. Your child's red thoughts are their irrational thoughts and often their worst fears and explain green thoughts are rational and reassuring thoughts. Explain we need more green thoughts!
Something to remember...generally children who have anxiety are really really kind. They are kind hearted and they feel deeply what other people feel. Anxiety makes your child a good friend and a good person. Although horrible, anxiety is kind of like their superpower!
The 'try not to do this' list...
Don't enable your child's anxiety, which I know can be really counter intuitive. Try not to satisfy their anxiety by avoiding or ignoring it. Remember anxiety grows if you avoid it.
A lot of the time there is an anxious parent behind every anxious child. Sometimes parents put too much of their own emotion onto their child's anxiety so try not to over sympathise.
We have to be our child's anchor. We have to stay strong. When your child is crumbling, be the rock.
Try not to punish your child's anxiety. This doesn't work and only makes you feel horrible and guilty. Try not to get angry with them.
Anxious children are like sponges and spies. They want to know everything and hear everything so don't talk in front of your child that will provoke or trigger their anxiety. Filter what you say.
Avoid the 'wait and see' approach. Anxiety doesn't go away. Don't deny your child's anxiety. Oh it's just a phase. be proactive and give your child the skills before their anxiety becomes too big and too loud.
How can I help you with my cards?
We have a collection of brilliant cards designed to help you and your child with anxiety and here's a list of them:
These were the first mental health and emotional well-being cards I ever created. I designed them for our eldest son Bass, who has anxiety and they work. We have them for children, teenagers and adults and the idea is to read one card, out loud, every day. A way of answering back to the loud voice in your head.
Parent Help Cards for Anxiety
This is a set of 30 cards each with a strategy and idea of how you can help your child with anxiety. I have used all the ideas on the cards and again they work. Brilliant little reminders of what to do to help.
Separation Anxiety Cards
We created these because it was apparent many parents had children, who have separation anxiety. The idea is to turn one card over every day and talk the card through with your child. Brilliant for encourage green thoughts!
Support Conversation Cards
These are absolutely brilliant for communicating with your child about their anxiety and this is absolutely key in helping your child with anxiety. Remember anxiety grows if we avoid it.
>> SHOP CARDS <<
There we go! I hope my anxiety chat was helpful. Please let me know if you suffer from anxiety or your child does and what do you do to help. I would love to hear from you.