It is important to recognize that anxiety disorders are the most common type of psychological problems found in children and adolescents. Approximately one in ten children meet the criteria for what is technically called an anxiety disorder.
Even though anxiety disorders are so common, children are usually referred initially for other reasons. They tend to access treatment when they are displaying aggressive behaviours, attention difficulties, eating disorders or suicidal tendencies. Sometimes the anxiety can go unnoticed due to these other difficulties. It can also be difficult for parents to recognise anxiety as a disorder, due to associating anxiety as part of a child’s personality.
Children who experience anxiety can be affected in three different ways:
The amount of anxiety a child experiences will vary from a single fear, such as being scared of going to sleep with the light out, to extremes where a child worries about many aspects of their life. Whether your child is experiencing anxiety relating to a single fear or to an extreme, early intervention is the key through seeking professional help with a Psychologist.
Ms Kerri Corkill, MAPS
BSci (Psych), BPsych (Hons)
Many parents find bedtime one of the most difficult parts of the day. Children often want to stay up “just a little longer” and this tugs at the heartstrings of their mums and dads. Even more complicated are times when children express anxiety at night and seem scared to go to sleep alone. It can be easy to fall into a habit of laying with your child until they fall asleep or to allow them to sleep in your bed. While short-term this may seem like a quick fix, in the longer-term it can affect spousal relationships, family routines and the child’s confidence. It can also implicitly send the message that they are not safe without you with them.
While children may go through short developmental phases of being scared to sleep alone at night, when these difficulties persist or become excessively frequent and distressing it may be time to intervene. The age of the child also comes into play when considering how much of a concern the anxiety has become. Ultimately, it is important for children to feel comfortable sleeping in their bed by themselves. After all, their own bed in their own home is really the safest place in the world. If a child doesn’t feel safe in their own bed it can be difficult for them to feel confident elsewhere.
If you have decided to help your child overcome their night-time fears, one of the most important things to assist them to sleep soundly alone in their own bed is to send the message that it is safe. It is really important that you encourage your child to confront their fears with some initial gentle reassurance.
Try not to be overly reassuring as this can come across as anxiety provoking. That is, it may seem to your child that you are trying too hard to encourage them, so it must be really difficult to do. Be mindful of your body language, tone of voice and the words you use. Project calm and remain poised when you communicate with your ‘little one’ and they will share in your confidence.
Using a reward system can be helpful to encourage them to challenge themselves. For example, a jar with shiny stones (purchased from a discount store) which you give your child for being brave. They can start earning them for staying in their bed all night by themselves or by doing other things they are not confident with. Remember, the bad thing about anxiety is that it can spread. However, the wonderful thing about confidence is that it will certainly spread.
Reassure your child initially by explaining “Mum and Dad would never ask you to do something that’s dangerous. We know our house is safe and so is your room. It’s important that you show yourself how brave you can be by sleeping in your bed all night. When you do this you’ll get a ‘brave stone’ to put in the jar. Once the jar is full you will get a special reward”. Try and find something that will really motivate your child to overcome the fear based on their interests (e.g. going to the movies, trampoline park, laser tag, etc.).
When night-time comes it is important to continue to project calm and confidence. This can be extremely difficult if your child is distressed. However, remember that they will draw on your approach to the situation and in time will adopt the same level of composure, by learning from watching you regulate your own emotions. Try and establish a soothing and consistent bedtime routine (e.g. have a bath, read a story in bed and then sleep time) and give them directions with certainty. For example, “It’s sleep time now. I love you and I’ll see you in the morning” then leave the room peacefully as if all is going to plan.
It’s up to you if you let your child come in to your room if they wake up in the middle of the night or keep coming out of their room. This is okay, however, it is extremely important that they then be calmly redirected back to their bed and that you are persistent with this. At that point ask your child “What did Mum and Dad say about overcoming you fears?”. It’s important that you assist your child to come up with the answers through prompting rather than giving them the responses. You need them to internalise their own self-talk that “Mum and Dad know my room is safe and there’s nothing to be afraid of. The noises outside are just normal night noises like birds, cats and cars going by”.
As difficult as it may be (and as much sleep as you may lose) you need to make sure that your child sleeps back in their own bed after they wake up. This may cost you sleep to begin with but it will save you a lot in the long run. These strategies will be helpful in assisting you to address your child’s night-time anxiety. However, some children and families may require professional support due to more extreme or persistent difficulties.
If you would like to seek advice or support in regards to your child’s anxiety please contact us today on 02 4929 2223. Our experienced and qualified Newcastle based Child Psychologists can assist.
#childpsychology #childhoodanxiety #parenting #Newcastle
Psychologists have known for a long time that what we think changes how we feel. In turn how we feel influences what we do. Some people get bogged down by the obstacles in their way. Their thoughts about situations are negative and block the path forward. So what does all of this have to do with those two words mentioned in the title of this article?
The thing is that some people look at situations and let 'BUT' get in the way:
- "I want to go to university 'BUT' it's such a lot of work"
- "I always wanted to make more friends 'BUT' I might say something silly"
- "I need to go to the gym 'BUT' I am tired"
- "I like going outside 'BUT' it's cold today"
'BUT' blocks our path. It tells us we can't do things because there is a problem. How are successful people different? They think differently. They let 'AND' tackle the problem head on:
- "I want to go to university 'AND' it's such a lot of work"
- "I always wanted to make more friends 'AND' I might say something silly"
- "I need to go to the gym 'AND' I am tired"
- "I like going outside 'AND' it's cold today"
By simply changing the 'BUT' to an 'AND' successful people accept the obstacle in their path. They know that it will be difficult and that they can take on the problem to find a solution. Achievement and attainment does not mean that you will not be faced with problems on the road to success. On the contrary, it means that you are aware of the path ahead of you and that the goal is worth the burden.
We cannot avoid problems. We can't expect everything to be easy. We need to consider situations with balanced and helpful thinking styles. Motivation is not something that you wake up with one day. It is a journey that begins with a single step. Like the Lion in the 'Wizard of Oz' he was not given courage by the wizard. It was something he proved to himself he had by completing the journey.
Remember these two words (AND/BUT). Take life head on. Find solutions to problems. Build your skills and mobilise your resources. You can achieve 'AND' it will be difficult.
Many local families have been affected by the storms and flood damage over the past week. It may be difficult for some children to adjust to these incidents however there are some simple things you can do to help them cope.
Firstly, it’s important to remember that every child reacts differently to natural disasters. It can be normal for a child to experience some levels of anxiety and fear after traumatic events. Some children may have nightmares, sleep difficulties and may struggle to separate from their caregivers for a while after the event. This is expected and can be helped with some gentle reassurance and patience from adults. It may take several weeks for a child to feel calmer and more secure as things slowly return to normal.
Once the disaster is over it’s important to try and return things to normality as quickly as possible. Continue with regular routines and provide a safe and supportive atmosphere. Ensuring that children are well fed, clothed and sheltered should be the first priority. This allows them to feel safe in their environment and promotes recovery.
Offer opportunities to discuss the events and allow children to ask questions if they have any. Focus on providing gentle reassurance rather than facts, as children do not need to know all of the adult details. Give them age appropriate explanations and explain that these types of events are actually quite rare.
It can be helpful to limit how much children are exposed to news reports and adult discussions of the disaster. This can be re-traumatising particularly in younger children, as by listening they can re-experience the distressing events or over emphasise them.
Of course one of the most important things is for adults to model resilience. Show children that things are under control by staying calm and providing them with a secure base to seek comfort from. They will gain strength from your own strength. Look after yourself and seek your own help and support if you need it.
Staying connected with friends, family and the community is an important aspect of recovering from a disaster. Everyone needs help at times and it is okay to ask for a shoulder to lean on. If you or your child experience extreme or prolonged distress following the recent floods, it may be helpful to seek professional psychological support to assist in the recovery.
Children can become scared, worried and concerned at different points in their life and it is only natural for parents to want to help. As a parent you want to see your child grow into a happy and confident individual. Their self-esteem and wellbeing is so important and shapes who they will become as an adult.
Anxiety is an uncomfortable feeling of nervousness and distress which both children and adults feel as a normal part of life. For example, many individuals feel somewhat 'on edge' and experience a sense of discomfort when they are in unfamiliar situations such as large parties or starting a new job. When we experience these feelings in small amounts this can be helpful as it makes us consider our actions to try and make a good impression.
However, some children and adults suffer from extreme anxiety and feel overwhelming stress levels in new situations or times of uncertainty. In these instances seeking assistance from a Mental Health professional, such as a Psychologist, can be helpful to learn strategies to cope and manage anxiety symptoms.
To teach your child to feel confident and resilient you can start by helping them in five simple ways:
1. Educate about the worry - Sometimes a small amount of age appropriate information can help your child feel better. For instance, if your child is scared of thunderstorms you can teach them in basic terms that there is nothing to be afraid of. E.g. Explain to them that the clouds rub together and make noise just like when we scrunch up paper. "We can't be hurt while we are inside the house. It’s just noise".
2. Encourage your child to cope with their fears - Avoiding situations which are not dangerous only prolongs the problem. Avoiding teaches them they are not safe and they need to stay away. Instead, gradually encourage your child to confront the situations they are scared of and they will learn they are safe and can cope. For example, if your child is afraid of dogs first show them pictures of friendly dogs. Then build on that by looking at videos together and visiting pet stores to see the puppies behind the glass. Eventually build up to the real thing, but only ever put the child in a situation in which they are safe.
3. Praise your child for being brave in difficult situations - When your child achieves a bravery goal or attempts something difficult praise and reward them. Be explicit and show emotion so they know how much it means. "Wow! I am so proud of you for talking in front of your class. That is a difficult thing to do but you did it anyway". This gives your child important feedback and encourages them to continue.
4. Talk about your own helpful thoughts to ease worries - Showing your child that you use positive self-talk to cope in day to day life will help them learn to do it also. Verbalise your own coping strategies and they will absorb it like a sponge. e.g. "I was a little bit nervous in my meeting today but I thought to myself 'I can do this and I am good at my job'. I felt much better after that".
5. Show your child how to reassure themselves rather than always relying on you - Sometimes children actively seek reassurance for the same thing over and over. If you notice your child is always worrying and asking you the same questions when they are scared you may need to get them to self-reassure more. For instance, if your child often worries that you will not be back to get them at the end of the day and always asks if you will definitely come to pick them up after school you could say "Remember we spoke about that yesterday. What did I say then?". Get your child to identify what you said the day before and repeat it to them self. e.g. "Mummy always comes to get me. She would never leave me behind". Using visuals and picture stories can also reinforce these ideas. Doing this helps your child to use positive self-talk to cope independently.
If your child is struggling with anxiety please call us on 02 4929 2223 and our Child & Adolescent Psychologist would be happy to help.
Our Child Psychologist, Mr Daniel Wendt, was asked to comment on the effects of Energy Drinks on children's and teenager's mental health. See his comments in this Newcastle Herald article. He explains the possible impact on anxiety and behaviour.
Read More Here
#Anxiety #Psychologist #Newcastle #NewcastleNSW
It is nearly that time of year again when children are returning to school after the end of year break and for some children they will be starting Kindergarten for the first time. Whether new to school or returning, children are faced with a lot of changes and excitement as their journey in life continuves.
It is natural for children to become upset and worried at times when they are separated from their caregivers or when encountering unfamiliar people. This is a helpful emotion as our children are considering their own safety and are aware of potential situations. This allows them to explore their world with care.
However, such anxiety can be problematic when it is overly distressing for a child or if it limits their safe exploration of their environment. For example, remaining distressed for extended periods of time or avoiding school can cause ongoing problems.
It is important to encourage engagement and independent curiosity and exploration in safe environments such as school. To help your child feel comfortable in situations where they should feel safe, such as school, try the following techniques:
Give your child the best start to the year! Contact us if you have more questions about Separation Anxiety: firstname.lastname@example.org
#SeparationAnxiety, #NewcastleNSW, #Newcastle, #ChildPsychologist, #ChildPsychology
Child Psychologist Daniel Wendt is the Principal Psychologist of Oracle Psychology in Newcastle, NSW.