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What happens when your child suffers from anxiety? Here are 12 things you can do when your child is going through an anxiety attack.
We are all aware that a little bit of anxiety is an integral part of everyone’s life. I believe, it is good as it compels you to look into your fears and get rid of them for good. Kids, like adults, also feel anxious, time to time, in tough situations.
Anxiety disorders, unfortunately, are nowhere close to the temporary fear or hesitation. The fear is so strong that it takes over the person and starts hindering their daily routines. Thus, it is extremely important to identify anxiety in children as soon as there is a doubt. It is vital that it should not be mistaken with general fear or childish behaviour.
There are a number of anxiety disorders: obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) and several phobia-related disorders such as claustrophobia (the fear of closed spaces) or verminophobia (the fear of germs) among others.
But, in my opinion, (as a first-hand survivor of social anxiety), the root cause is same for the fear-based anxiety. The cause, according to me, is the fear of the unknown, being afraid of one’s own mind. And the fear of being consumed by made up failures in the mind.
The main cause usually, is the child’s inability to relate to the real world. It is the repetition of such events that makes the child believe in their trauma that they have experienced in the past. This leads to them generalising the events as what their mind has perceived for them.
As the mind’s only job is to keep us alive, it switches off other high level functions like thinking and rationalising at times when it feels fear. The minds sends the body to the basic survival mode which is either fight or flight. That means, it makes you run away from danger or freeze in front of it. This is similar to what a number of insects do in order to survive.
Depending upon the child’s personality, they choose their response to anxiety. When the child chooses flight, they shut down in their own world. In a situation where a person suffering from anxiety is left alone with their feeling, they can go through terrible thoughts which might even include suicidal tendencies. People might also experience physical symptoms like tightening of the stomach, breathlessness and heaviness around the temples.
I have tackled depression and social anxiety on my own, since, in India such things are rarely diagnosed until parents want it. And it all went undiagnosed and I was called shy, timid and introverted. While these are qualities, they expected a girl to have, no one thought that the girl might be depressed.
However, after a long battle with stomach spasms which were followed by compulsive thoughts, I won over my anxiety. What helped was that I kept saying to myself, “There is no future tomorrow, I will have to do something about it right now.
I came out of my mind and my mind listens to me now.
It is my belief, that each anxiety is personal to the individual and no method or measure can define it. It should not be treated generally, like a protocol.
One of the most important factors of a child’s mental health is their parent’s mental health. If a parent suffers from anxiety, there is a chance that it will be passed on to the child as well. Sensitive kids can sense their parents’ anxious energies and mirror them
Take care of yourself first.
The following points will help a lot going about daily activities with a sensitive kid. I wanted to write about anxiety as I was bullied by it for a good thirty years of my life.
This is completely based on my research and experience and I am not a medical advisor.
Work with your kids to make them feel safe
Work closely with your child and make him/her feel secure and safe in the world. Make sure that their basic needs, those of food, water, shelter, and safety, are met. Every child deserves a stable childhood as it is the foundation of their life and mental health.
Family scenes are meant to be regular and if a child sees erratic changes every day, he/she might start feeling insecure.
Formulate a calming down routine
Form a calming down ritual for the child when he/she is having a panic attack. My personal favourite is colouring mandalas or drawing them. There are several free drawings available all over the internet.
Mandalas relax and unwind the mind and are a great tool to centre the body and mind.
A word of caution, though, if your child is in deep shutdown, they might not co-operate. At such times, parents need patience to handle the situation.
Make a playlist for such times
Music has a great effect on diverting the killer thoughts of anxiety. Work with your child and make a playlist of their favourite songs and play them whenever needed.
Journaling is also a good idea
Journaling helps a lot. If you have older kids give them a journal to write down about their feelings and thoughts before acting on them. Later on, ask them to categorise them as important or just trash.
Practice mindfulness with them
Meditation and practising mindfulness is another good way to calm your child down during a panic attack. However, practice not mixing too many activities. All this helps an anxious mind.
Play therapy as another option
Another good option for younger kids is play therapy. Play pretend and make up a character who is anxious and tell their story. Ask your child to provide inputs. Try not to focus too much on the issue. Keep it fun and a little joyful.
The key is communication. Once the worry is out of their head, you can work on handling it with your kid.
Try and avoid medication
I do not advice that kids be put under any medication as they only sedate their minds and their ability to fight the fears. Few Ayurvedic supplements, like Medha Vati and Brahmi, are beneficial for mental ailments.
These can be administered on a daily basis and there is no drug-like effect.
Multivitamins are always a good option.
Exposure to their fears
Gentle and gradual exposure to the fear is another tool that might help them in the long run. Put them into situations where they feel anxious and offer them help in fighting it.
This takes a lot of creativity from the parents’ side. For example, you can tell them that it’s their superpower and that they have the ability to sense fear from a distance. Tell them that this can be used for others’ benefit too.
This might help them in opening up and talking about the fear which isn’t only theirs, anymore. Maintain their trust and take it from there, to a place where the fear can be controlled.
If the child is not willing to open up, don’t force them. This will only add to their anxiety.
Affirmations help. Make them affirm to themselves before bed that they are enough, they are worthy, they are loved and they are good for themselves. Make them believe uncertainty does not kill anyone.
Whenever they make small progress in battling their anxieties praise them for being brave.
Seek help from a therapist
You can appoint a therapist to work with your child but no one knows better than parents.
Let them be
Just let the child be. If they want to stay quiet, let them be. Give them a paper to draw if they want to. If they are afraid of public places do not force them to go.
Sometimes let them have their way but they will need exposure to get over it. There are time when parents impose their choices on kids which aggravate their conditions. Strike the balance.
This is just a small list from my side.
Each child is different and needs a special list.
Build their self-confidence and they will thrive.
I wanted to extend my help to people out there who are suffering in silence or their loved ones are and are unable to get help for whatever reason. Never stop believing in yourself or your kid. It matters when you don’t give up.
Picture credits: Pexels
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I started my career as a software engineer, played in the field for around 7
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