I do not know about you, dear parents and educators, but for my part, I have had the impression that I have been hearing more often about anxiety in recent years. Maybe because we take it less lightly than before, we listen a little more to children talking about their emotions and because education has changed over time, we stop there more, to the good of young and old. Because the distress that the little ones can experience is quite similar to that of adolescents and even adults. Anxiety is not trivial, but it is important to consider it in order to find solutions as parents and to play down certain situations that spice up our daily lives.
What is anxiety?Basically, everyone experiences anxiety and fears. And that's normal (and healthy), because anxiety is a feeling that helps protect us from danger. A lion who would point towards us or a fire which would start in our house pushes us to move and to react in order to avoid us a real danger. To children, we can compare it to a smoke detector that rings when there is smoke, or to an alarm that goes off to tell us to be alert and protect ourselves from the source of the danger. Anxiety can also harm us and prevent us from enjoying life and beautiful moments, because our imagination can play tricks on us by creating crazy scenarios that would not happen (monsters under the bed or a wolf who enters the house) or our hazard assessment is completely exaggerated. For example, the chances of me being struck by lightning or crashing my plane are slim, but our anxiety is so high that it becomes almost certain that will happen! On the other hand, anxiety does not usually fall from the sky. This may be due, for example, to heredity (even if anxiety is not manifested in the same way for all members of the same family) or to a significant and traumatic event experienced later . It could also be an observation or something the child heard from an adult meaning to him. Let’s not forget that we are role models for our young people and that they learn a lot by imitating us!
But still?In spite of themselves, fears and worries can result in a feeling of low self-confidence and of depreciation in young and old, because the latter feel vulnerable, isolated and feel unable to react adequately. Unfortunately, too, fears and irrational panics prevent them from enjoying life fully and from having experiences that could be enriching and pleasantly memorable. Why? Because the first reflex of an anxious person will be to avoid to live which makes him uncomfortable. He will therefore do everything in his power to save himself from new situations (because the novelty can be greatly anxious in the anxious little), unexpected and things thathe will not be able to control as he would like. Furthermore, as soon as he detects a threat, all his attention will be focused on this stress instead of putting it on the task in progress, or the activity he is living. Avoidance helps reduce stress quickly (and temporarily). I give you some examples of avoidance situations in children:
- Refuse to go to sleep with a friend
- Don't want to go on a night out that might be nice
- Avoid going to a place where there is an animal he fears
- Do not want to go play at the park because spiders could be there
- Opposing the registration of a course or the practice of a sport, because he is afraid of ...
- Refuse to go to class on oral or dictation days
- Rosalie was not afraid of dogs until she heard her aunt say that they could be aggressive. Since then, she has been afraid to go play in the park or walk the street, in case she meets a dog. If this circle is not broken, Rosalie could end up wanting to leave her home without her parents.
- Simon goes on a trip with his parents. He was most happy until he heard his father talking about his fear of a plane crash, of the fear of being confined there for long hours. Simon’s small internal alarm system has just been triggered and what once rhymed pleasure and joy for him now rhymes with danger and disaster.
What are the signs?How do I know if my child is experiencing anxiety? In what ways can this be expressed? As I mentioned above, one of the first manifestations is resistance, a refusal to go to a place or to participate in something (swimming pool, school, party, etc.). Here are some other signs that will put your ear to the bug:
- Sleep problems
- Fear of losing control
- Fear of going crazy
- Feeling of being misunderstood
- Physical symptoms: headache or stomach ache, nausea, vomiting, palpitations, sweating, chest pain, skin irritation
- Hang on to your parent
So what are the solutions?The best trained to equip parents and their children remain psychologists. I therefore encourage you to go and consult in order to have the right time and to fill your toolbox with tips and tools to intervene properly according to your child's profile. Over time, as a teacher, I have had to deal with anxious students. For the youngest, the first weeks of school are sometimes trying and tears are not uncommon. "What if my parents don't come looking for me?" "What if the bus leaves without me?" "What if I don't have friends on the schoolyard?" "I also rubbed shoulders with students who feared the hour of their weekly dictation or their oral presentation." What if I can't? "What if I turn red and everyone laughs at me?" What if ... What if ...
What if we took the time to chat with our child?Listen to him, let him speak, do not trivialize his physical symptoms, because they are very real and, later, ask him simple questions. Karine Trudel, another blogger accomplice of the Belles Combines blog, provides in her latest article examples of discussions you may have with your child. This translates into questions like:
- What's the worst thing that could happen to you?
- What are the chances of this happening?
- What would happen if it happened?
- Are you able to react adequately if this happens?
- Could you be exaggerating the situation a bit?
Relaxation techniquesThere are several ways to relax using breathing and relaxation techniques for each part of the body and the muscles (by contracting them very tightly and relaxing them, for example). You can find it on the Internet, on CD or direct it yourself by giving precise instructions. It will also allow him to know all the parts of his body. Yoga can also help your child breathe easier and get them to relax before a disturbing event. Massaging him, flattering his back can also help him find relief. In class, for my agitated or anxious students, I offer them lavender which I apply to them using a small ball applicator. Most ask for more!
Expose it, a little, slowly, but surely ...To reduce fear and excessive distrust of a situation, it is advisable to expose the person to face what they fear gently, calmly and gradually. Start with short periods and increase the exposure time when you feel your child is handling their fears better. Mostly, praise him! With patience, your child will gain confidence. His distrust may not all go away, but he will manage better when the anxiety arises because he knows how to deal with it and his reason will take over his imagination. He will thus gain confidence in himself, at the same time.
A well-established routineIn class, children are used to a daily routine. The most anxious feel reassured thanks to it, because they know what is coming during the day and that reassures them. At home, routine and consistency in interventions remain precious tools for the supervision of more insecure children. That said, there is flexibility to demonstrate to children that unexpected events can happen, but if the basis of the established routine remains essentially the same, the child will feel safe and will not tend to have seizures. . The same is true of the intervention of parents and caregivers who gravitate around him. It is reassuring for a child to be clearly informed of the consequences of inappropriate and appropriate behavior.
What do we avoid?
- Delay in applying consequence in case of bad behavior
- Exposing the child drastically to what is causing him anxiety (e.g. bringing him to the biggest merry-go-round in La Ronde, when he expresses fears at the idea of making one)
- Ignore his physical symptoms, because they are really felt
- Overprotect our child by avoiding the anxiety-provoking elements
- Show exasperation and anger when our child is afraid
- Minimize the fears that our child shares with us