Are Worries Shrinking Your Child Or Teen’s World?

DREAM Scrabble_Anxiety Tyra Vickers

Are you concerned about the wellbeing of your child? Perhaps they are becoming increasingly resistant to everything—from new people, places and opportunities to long-time hobbies and schoolwork. When you invite your child to participate in an activity, do they act out or cry to avoid it? Throughout the day you may be noticing a pattern of overreactions to seemingly minor requests.

Are they having difficulty separating from you? For example, they may meltdown when you leave for work or have a hard time at drop-off to daycare or school. Older children may express worries about what could go wrong when you leave them home with a babysitter.

Perhaps your child seems the most on-edge and tense when it comes to school-related tasks. For example, your child may display perfectionism, rewriting sentences over and over or requesting new, clean worksheets that likely are not available. Although your child or teen may devote a great deal of time to their studies, the results don’t seem to match their efforts. Are they falling behind in their classes and struggling to get along with their peers? Do they dread going to school so much that they claim to be ill yet don’t have observable symptoms?

Have you noticed compulsive behavior, like excessive hand washing, rechecking things or counting or ordering objects in very specific ways? Maybe your child worries about things outside their control, like the weather, natural disasters or hypothetical situations.

It’s also possible that your child has begun complaining about real health concerns. Anxiety disorders in children and teens can also lead to physical issues, such as stomach problems, headaches, sweating, irregular sleeping patterns, nightmares and more.

At this point, it may be alarming to watch your child become physically distressed, as well as miss out on the many opportunities and activities going on around them. As a parent, you want them to succeed and feel comfortable spending time with friends, relatives and schoolmates. Most of all, you want them to tackle life’s challenges and cherish its joys.

Anxiety In Teens And Children Is Very Common

If your child or teen seems to be exhibiting anxiety symptoms, they are certainly not alone. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, an estimated 31.9 percent of adolescents were diagnosed with an anxiety disorder last year.

It is important to remember that anxiety is something we all experience. Worry and fear are normal, adaptive responses that alert us to danger. In this day and age, healthy anxiety looks like preparing for a test or completing tasks on time. Anxiety becomes a problem when it’s triggered even when no actual danger or pressure is present.

The human body and brain can get stuck in repetitive anxious thoughts and behaviors. Our habits actually shape brain functioning, carving out neural pathways that teach our minds how to act and react. Think of carving neural pathways like sledding down fresh snow. The more you sled down the hill, the more formed the path becomes. The more formed the path, the more likely your sled is to follow it. Habitual behaviors work similarly. In other words, the more anxiety you experience, the more that anxiety response is triggered.

Kids these days encounter a ton of stress. Academic demands on children and parents are higher than ever. Major life events, such as a move, marriage, divorce, new sibling, loss of a loved one or something else can also trigger anxiety. That means it’s easier than ever for children and teens to get stuck in anxious habits that don’t serve them.

The good news is that neural pathways can be reformed. There are effective ways to deal with stressful life events. It’s possible for your child to break out of anxious habits and develop more calming, balanced ways of moving through their lives.

BeachBoy_Anxiety Tyra Vickers

Anxiety Counseling Can Help Your Child or Teen Thrive

 

Therapy can be highly effective in providing kids and teens with age appropriate techniques to reduce anxiety and establish new neural pathways in the brain. In a safe, compassionate environment, I will provide tailored coping strategies that not only alleviate anxiety in the moment, but positively change your child’s relationship to anxiety over the long run.

Throughout our sessions together, your child can expect to learn how anxiety manifests in the mind and body, as well as how to effectively recognize and cope with triggers. That way, they can interrupt the cycles of anxious thoughts before they start.

There are a variety of age appropriate anxiety treatment techniques we may explore, including abdominal breathing, guided meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, mindfulness, cognitive-behavioral strategies, graded exposure, as well as art and play therapy. We’ll also focus a lot on self-care. The mind and body are intricately connected. So, healthy habits surrounding exercise, sleep and eating all play a role in improving anxiety.

During sessions, I frequently use humor. I can help your child or teen come to recognize how silly anxious thoughts can be. By reflecting and laughing, without self-criticism, it’s possible to turn something that was initially scary into something more light hearted.

The more your child is able to recognize anxiety, understand their emotions and practice healthy coping techniques, the more relief they will feel. Eventually, your child will be equipped with all the skills they need to move through the world on their own, without my help.

I can also work with you, the parent or guardian, on how to engage with your child in ways that reduce anxiety. From my nine years of experience as a school psychologist and earning my doctorate in the field, I know that relief is possible. As an adolescent, I also struggled with anxiety, so I understand, on both a clinical and personal level, what your family is going through.

Anxiety does not need to rule your household. Anxiety in children and teens is highly treatable. With the right guidance, it’s possible for your child to become the calm, confident person they wish to be.

You may have questions or concerns about anxiety counseling…

Does going to therapy mean I’m a bad parent?

 

Asking for help is a sign that you’re a highly aware and resourceful parent. Anxiety in kids doesn’t typically get better on its own. Without the proper skills and guidance, it could even get worse. Anxiety disorders are considered a “gateway” to other conditions such as depression and substance abuse. You want to take control of anxiety before it becomes even more significant.

My child and family are so busy. I’m not sure we have time.

 

Carving out time for therapy can actually make your life less chaotic. Oftentimes, kids and adolescents will make decisions based in anxiety, which can really impede their ability to task manage and be productive. Not only that, but those anxious choices, like avoiding people and places, can become habitual.

Here, I can teach your child effective ways to alleviate stress and start to make confident, well thought out decisions. Plus, anxiety therapy is not for life. I want to provide your family with skills that you use long after our work has concluded.

My child doesn’t want to go to therapy.

Anxiety makes many children—and adults—want to pull away and avoid uncomfortable sensations. But in reality, finding relief requires leaning into those uncomfortable feelings and working through them. Anxiety counseling is a bit like the Chinese finger trap. The first impulse is to pull, but you actually need to push to free yourself.

 

If your child is resistant to therapy, I encourage you to call me to discuss strategies that can help them become more comfortable with the idea. Going to therapy is a skill, just like going anywhere else. In therapy, we can develop your child or teen’s ability to try new things and go to new places. The ultimate goal is to help them grow up with greater confidence and calm.

 

Things Can Get Better

 

If you’re interested in learning more about how to help anxiety, please call (720) 316-3909 or email drtyravickers@gmail.com for a free 30-minute phone consultation.

You Are Not Alone