Anxiety can plague children no matter what age they are. Several of my client’s children struggle with anxiety stemming from fears of what might happen. This can lead to rigidity and resistance to change even though they will enjoy the next activity.
Anxiety is complicated, and it is real. I recently saw the movie Angst: Raising Awareness Around Anxiety that has been shown in several high schools. I learned important information about anxiety and what I can do to help parents with anxious children.
Some facts about the diagnosis of anxiety.
- We all get anxious at times. The diagnosis of anxiety is very real and different from occasional anxiety.
- All kids blow things out of proportion or jump to conclusions at times, but consistently distorting reality is a sign that help is needed.
- Anxiety is “a chronic sense of uneasiness about a vague future, a gnawing worry about what may or may not happen.” That sets it apart from fear which is temporary and concrete.
There are several kinds of anxiety:
- Agoraphobia – avoidance of situations.
- Panic Disorder – intense feelings of fear or terror for no apparent reason,
- Social Anxiety Disorder – avoidance of certain social or performance situations,
- Special Phobia – intense fear of a specific situation or object,
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder – recurring anxiety-producing thoughts and repetitive behaviors designed to reduce the anxiety
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) – excessive worrying about a number of events or activities.
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – repeated re-experiencing of a severely traumatic event.
It’s important to get professional help and to understand and support the person with anxiety.
- It shouldn’t fall to the individual alone to cope with anxiety. Support from family and friends and from excellent, affordable medical professionals is key.
- One teen in the movie showed us how Cognitive Behavioral Therapy was helpful. CBT is a type of exposure therapy where the person confronts what makes her anxious under professional guidance, is effective for about half of anxiety disorder patients.
Neuroimaging data indicate that it actually rewires the functioning of the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex.
After the showing of the movie, a panel of 3 senior girls were very brave and shared the challenges they face with anxiety.
- Two key takeaways for parents that I learned from these girls and the movie is for parents to 1) educate themselves on anxiety and 2) to learn how to listen in a supportive manner. Children feel unburdened when parents offer a safe place for their to talk about their feelings and experiences without judgment and criticism.
That evening, I developed an even deeper commitment to the work I do with parents. I know that the skills I teach parents are crucial for the health and well-being of all children, whether they feel anxious at times or are diagnosed with anxiety.
You can learn how to become an expert in listening to your child as a Supporter and in solving problems together as a Collaborator in my book Ally Parenting: A Non-Adversarial Approach to Transform Conflict Into Cooperation. This is what your children need from you.
For more information about the movie Angst and anxiety, go to their website https://angstmovie.com/