John Cowan - Anxious Kids

Publish Date
Friday, 29 January 2016, 9:17AM
By John Cowan

Some kids get anxious about going to the dentist or a party or starting at a new school. That’s fair enough – those situations are a bit scary.  That type of anxiety is dealt with by giving them more information, and by big people in the their world – like you – reassuring them. But then there are some kids who seem to be nervy and anxious about a lot of things a lot of the time. If you’re their parent, a useful question to ask yourself is, “Does their anxiety remind you of anyone?” Very often we have to admit, “Yes, they remind me of myself”. Or maybe your partner or some other close family member suffers from anxiety.  Anxiety definitely runs in families. It is part of the way your brain is wired up and realising this can be a hugely helpful for an anxious child.  They can understand that the feeling fear does not mean that there really is something to be afraid of. Our anxiety is screaming, “Danger! Danger!” but the danger is not real.  When an anxious child (or an anxious adult, for that matter) learns that anxiety is a big fat liar, and that our emotions are not telling us the truth, they can start to fight it.  

For many people, anxiety comes for a while and then passes. That can be a comfort: “This is an anxious time, but they usually pass and you will get over it.”

It takes energy to get on top of anxiety and that is why it flares up when we are run down and stressed. Everything that put energy into us – like exercise, rest, fun and eating well  –  helps  immensely.

If anxiety creeps up on you or your child at night and you cannot sleep, and your thoughts buzz around and around on a problem, tell yourself, “This is important and so I’ll make an appointment with myself to think seriously about this, tomorrow, when I am fresh.”  Imagine yourself putting that problem in a box, closing the lid  and then putting an alarm clock on it so you will not forget. Then actively block any more thoughts about that problem with, “I’m dealing with this tomorrow at nine o’clock.  Go away!” Amazingly, the next morning, you often find that the imaginary box is empty. A good sleep and some daylight have an amazing way of evaporating many of the terrors that torment us in the night.

Most of all, comfort your anxious child with your sympathy and reassurance, and sometimes we have to exhort our kids to be genuinely brave. One psychologist I know tells kids to put their imaginary boxing gloves on and fight the anxiety.   With support, insights and few techniques, most of manage to get over our anxious patches and enjoy life.

Well done, gardener. You have a fine crop there. If we can help you or garden, get in touch at the

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