By Sandy Green, MS, NCC, LAC and Joel Ackley MA, NCC, LPC, ACS
Does your child talk a lot about “freaking out”? Does your child express worries or fears? Do you notice more often than not a worried look on his/her face? Does your son or daughter seem to be very concerned with your well-being? Does s/he have trouble falling or staying asleep? Does your child stay away from certain people or places? Does it seem your son or daughter is much more sensitive than other children? Does your child seem “wound”, nervous or “jumpy” at times whether there is reason to be or not?
If you answered “yes” to a few or many of these questions, then you are recognizing some troubling things in your child. Many other parents have and do experience these same situations with their children and want what’s best for each of their children. Many times we have found that children may have a tendency to hide their feelings of fear, hate, shame, guilt, happiness, anticipation, and other feelings in their behavior as well as be unfamiliar with what each of their feelings are or what to do with them. They may get attached to specific types of video games, certain television shows, or be in an on-going “fantasy” role (which may keep them from meeting or doing their “real world” roles). You as a parent may find yourself wondering why or getting frustrated at times when you see these things happening in front of you or hear about them from others. If you are experiencing these things with your child, you are not alone. To one extent or another, this is fairly common among the children we have counseled. We are here to help and develop new ways of coping for your child. By being aware of the signs and behavior your child shows, this will help you to connect with your son or daughter so he/she can learn new ways to help face and overcome these difficult times. Many parents who come to us are greatly concerned with their child’s behavior as they see the “acting out” as potentially harmful, disruptive and quite problematic. As a parent, you might be feeling confused, sad, frustrated, or overly concerned yourself. You may be likely wondering why your child is not able to “just be a kid”, carefree, fun-loving, and curious about the adventures of life. Wouldn’t you love to see that again in your child?
Let’s look at some things you are sensing and observing now with your child
- Outward signs
Children may exhibit anxiety in different ways including: sleeplessness (difficulty falling or staying asleep), bad dreams or nightmares, feeling flush or chills, restlessness, shortness of breath, a pounding heartbeat, hard to explain stomach aches, or feeling as if s/he is choking. Please keep in mind some or many of these signs and symptoms may also be part of a medical condition and consulting a pediatrician or trained medical professional is highly recommended.
- Inward Signs with Outward Expression
Some inward signs of anxious children may include: preoccupation with what others may say or think about them, worry about making and keeping things “perfect” around them, look to please you or your spouse as well as other authority figures in their lives, and/or overly worry that they may not be liked by their peers or others. Outward expressions include: continually asking you or others if a certain person or persons likes him/her, checking and rechecking daily routines to be sure they are done well, at times clench own fists or hastily shake own hands, eat in excess, bite own nails, pull own hair, pick at own skin, or ask (plead) to stay home from school or social events which most children usually find rewarding such as a sleepover with a friend or friends, attending a birthday party, or going to a sports activity. A child’s anxiety not managed in a healthy way may lead to isolation, fights, destruction of things (property), crying spells, clinginess with a parent or guardian, whining, angry outbursts, frustration (including situations when things don’t go as expected or anticipated), and possibly depression.
- Avoidant Behavior
A more specific act that may not necessarily be as noticeable is avoidant behavior. Your child may be more often than not in his/her room for extended times. Each child is different and you need to be the one who decides what “extended times” mean. However, this may take the form of your child pretending to be sick or begging to stay home from school or other activities because s/he doesn’t have the necessary skills to face her/his fears. These may be fear of not being liked, fear of being “picked on” or bullied, poor social skills, fear of taking tests, fear of failing, and other fears. We have found that most every child has worries or fears from time to time but if you are witnessing a pattern or repetition of these behaviors, your child may be struggling with anxiety.
Questions you may have
What’s this going to cost me?
This is a common concern for parents who want what is best for their child. Many times parents don’t consider counseling as a part of their expenses, however, nor did they ever want to discover their son or daughter filled with worry, grief or anxiety. What is reassuring for parents is getting help in a private, confidential setting where their child is welcomed, doesn’t feel embarrassed or judged about what he/she is going through, and will learn healthy and effective coping skills in order to regain a positive sense well-being, become more self-assured, relaxed, as well as managing his/her emotions and behavior well.
How long will counseling last?
What we have experienced with many children gripped with anxiety is once rapport and trust are established with their counselor, they respond fairly quickly and positively. Thus, counseling children is by and large short-term as he/she applies what they learn in order to overcome the struggles and emotional pain. However, there may be other circumstances and factors to consider as well as other difficulties that may take more counseling to sort out. Either way we want to have a mutual plan with goals that we together strive to meet. Through this investment of resources, time and energy, many families are pleasantly surprised and quite grateful with the results they see in their children.
Pathways Counseling Services has counselors working with us who have experience, knowledge and training to help your child and family through these anxious times. Further, we have witnessed many successes with the children and their families who have come to us for help.
Feel free to peruse our website and read other blog posts and learn more about what we may be able to offer you and your child. You may also email or call us with questions and to set up an appointment which can be that first step of getting back your carefree, fun-loving child. He/she is worth it.