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Helping Our Children Heading Back to School

Anger is an all-consuming emotion at times, even more so now as we deal with new situations. If you don't get a grip on it, it can affect your quality of life. Anger will damage your relationships and raise your stress levels. If anger is beginning to impact your life, start taking steps to control your emotional state.

School is starting across the country, and there is still a level of uncertainty. All of it is leading to an unknown situation for our children and teens. As parents, what can we watch for in order to address this important issue for them?

Parents or teachers may see signs a child or teen is anxious. Some behaviors to be aware of are:

  • Clinging to a parent, crying or saying they are “not feeling well”
  • Acting scared or becoming upset easily over simple things
  • Physically feeling shaky, jittery or short of breath
  • Constant “butterflies” in their stomach, clammy hands or racing heart

Many of these are outward symptoms of the “fight or flight” response to anxiety.  Our bodies normally respond to danger, real or perceived. There’s a release of natural chemicals in the body to prepare us to deal with a real danger. With real danger it’s meant to protect us, however, when dealing with anxiety, it can be overactive. The response occurs even with no real danger.

What Causes Anxiety Disorder in my Child?

There are different factors that play a role in causing the overactive "fight or flight" that happens with anxiety disorders. Some common ones are:

  • Genetics – if a child has a family member with an anxiety disorder they are more likely to have one too.
  • Brain chemistry – if the genes are not directing the brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) correctly or they are in short supply it can cause anxiety
  • Learned behaviors – if a child has grown up in a family where others project fear and anxiety, it can be something they are “taught” inadvertently
  • Life situations – right now, our life situations are not what we would consider to be “normal”. Add the issues with school (or homeschooling), isolation from activities and friends and it’s going to lead to more anxiety. Some of our children are dealing with the loss or severe illness of a family member in the last year. There’s a stronger fear that “this could happen to someone else I love.”

There might be different causes for your child’s anxiety, however, it is more important to reach out and find someone to help you with this than to try to self-diagnose and treat on your own. The longer the child or teen suffers with anxiety, the more of a hold it appears to have on their actions and behavior. 

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How Are Anxiety Disorders Diagnosed?

Anxiety disorders can be diagnosed by a trained counselor. They will talk with you and your child about what is going on.

The counselor will ask questions and listen carefully.  There will be no preconceived conclusions, based on being in the same day to day environment.  They will be questions about how and when your child’s anxiety and fears happen. They will gently probe to find out what triggers the feelings of anxiety. 

This information and the answers given will help the counselor diagnose the type of anxiety disorder your child or teen has. This will provide the counselor with the treatment plan best suited for your child or teen’s needs.

How Is Anxiety Treated?

In most cases, anxiety disorders are treated with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). This is a form of talk therapy that helps the family, children and teens learn how to effectively manage worry, fear and their anxiety. 

For children, CBT teaches them that what they think and do affects how the feel.  With CBT, your child or teen learns that when they continue to avoid what they fear, the fear stays strong and in control. However, when they learn to face a fear, it takes away the power and the fear will go away.

Using CBT:

Parents will learn how to best respond when their child or teen is anxious. They learn how to help kids face their fears.

Children and teens learn coping skills that allow them to face fear.  This will lead to less worry and an healthier way of acting and coping.

The trained counselor will help your child or teen practice the new skills being taught. They will give support and praise as they try. Over time, the child or teen will learn to face fears and feel better about their response. They learn to get used to, and not over react to situations they're afraid of. They will start to feel pride in what they are learning about themselves and their actions. Without so many worries, they can focus on other things — like school, activities, and fun.

Be patient! It takes some time for counseling to work and for your child or teen to feel better.

How Can I Help My Child?

The best way to help your child is be supportive about learning how to deal with and reduce their anxiety.

Find a trained counselor and take your child to all of the therapy appointments

Talk with your child or teen’s counselor and ask how you can help your child

Help your child face fears. Work with the counselor on how you can help your child or teen practice at home

Praise and encourage your child and their efforts to cope with fears and worry

Help and encourage your child or teen to talk about feelings.  Really listen to them and let them know you understand and love them. A caring relationship with parent(s) helps your child build inner strength

Encourage the small, “baby steps”. Don’t let your child give up or avoid what they’re afraid of. Help them take small positive steps forward.

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We encourage you to schedule an appointment onlinecontact us or call our office at 480-235-1682. We offer a free 15-minute phone consultation.

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