According to Anxiety and Depression Association of America 1 in 8 children under the age of 18 suffers from anxiety.
However, 80% of children who are diagnosed with anxiety do not receive treatment. To put this into perspective, in a classroom of 24 students at least three students in every classroom are currently suffering from anxiety.
Within my line of work, I often get the opportunity to speak to many parents that struggle with knowing what steps they should take in order to provide their child with the help they need.
A parent of a 16-year-old student called me and told me that every day her daughter cries before attending school, her hands get sweaty, and she complains of her heart racing because she doesn’t want to be at school. Her mother had no clue what to do about it!
When I spoke to her daughter to get better assessment I noticed that she appeared to be overwhelmed and disappointed with herself.
When I asked her what was making her feel the way she did, she said: “because my math class is extremely hard, I’m not going to pass, my other peers always understand the material and I am stupid”! Immediately I realized anxiety has overpowered her mind.
As a result, we began to process every negative statement she gave me. One of the questions I asked her was: “do your other classmates ask questions in the classroom?” To which she answered “yes” as I figured she would.
I then followed up with “would that then mean they do not always understand the material?” And in that instant, she had an “aha” moment and realized she was not the only who did not understand the material right away. You see, the thing with anxiety is that it convinces us of things that aren’t always true and preys off of our weakness.
In addition to processing her negative self-statements, I told her to write down 10-12 positive statements that contradict with what anxiety has told her.
I encouraged her to read these statements every night before bed to allow the statements to become engrained in her brain. The idea behind this exercise is to give her the tools she needs to reduce her anxiety prior to coming to school.
What to do when your child has anxiety
Listed below are the questions you can ask your child to gain a better understanding of how anxiety is affecting your child
1. When did the anxiety first begin?
2. What triggers your anxiety?
3. What are the statements that come to your mind when you begin to have an anxiety attack?
4. What are your symptoms when experiencing an anxiety attack?
These steps will allow you to give you a holistic picture of their anxiety and you can use their responses to determine the skills and techniques you can implement at home.
Listed below are some skills/techniques you can utilize to help your child
- Mediation (I recommend the stop, breathe and think app)
- Positive Affirmation (the example I gave earlier in the article)
- Challenging the statements that comes to their mind in a calm and gentle voice (i.e. rating their anxiety on scale from 1-10, 1 being the least likely to occur and 10 being the most likely to occur and processing each rating)
- Anxiety can also lead to lack of sleep which can lead to more anxiety, it’s a toxic cycle. It is because of this I recommend getting them a high-quality mattress like the ones at Leesa to help them sleep better.
- I also highly recommend counseling
Hope this helps! If you have any further questions please feel free to email me at [email protected]