School supply shopping, open house nights, last minute doctor visits...back to school can mean craziness for the schedule! In one weekend we had three kids transitioning to college, talk about a whirlwind. Change can be hard and stressful for everyone. Even exciting change still creates stress in the body. And the body does not differentiate between positive stress and negative stress!
Keeping something steady in your routine can communicate to the body that it’s secure, reducing anxiety. Recently my husband and I opted to make dinnertime 6:00 regardless of who will be home for the meal, with too many schedule variations we needed something steady.
Very small changes in structure can create huge payoffs in developing a sense of safety and security for your kids. For instance, notice when you’re asking your kids questions like “what do you want to do?” “should we go now?” “it’s time to turn the TV off, OK?” This transfers the job of setting structure to your child, which unintentionally communicates to them that they are in charge of their world. What they need in times of transition is a sense that you are in charge, able to take care of them and stronger than the stressors coming their way (both negative and positive).
Try using language that communicates what is going to happen next as if it's a fact. "The TV will be off in 5 minutes," or "time to go out the door." Better yet, eliminating the discussion and just acting sometimes sets the best structure. Try gently taking a hand and heading out the door, or handing a backpack and lunchbox to them with a smile or bringing the toothbrush to the child without creating a conversation. Using proactive non-verbals can be extremely comforting to a child's sense of security.
How do you know when your child’s fears have turned from everyday worries to something that might need some extra help? It’s not always obvious when a child is struggling with anxiety.
Kids can’t always tell us what’s on their mind. The area of the brain that puts words to a feeling or a visceral response is just starting to learn its job in childhood. This is a big reason why it can be tough to know what is going on with your kiddo.
You can’t always trust what your child tells you verbally. Not only do kids need our help naming emotions, sometimes they try to mask vulnerable emotions. Your child might tell you everything is fine and if that’s what you’re desperate to hear you might be tempted to take their word for it. But you need to be the detective. If something feels off, something probably IS off.
Signals your child might be struggling with anxiety:
If your child’s struggles are impacting daily life, school performance, family or social relationships, it might be time to ask for some help.
Anxiety can get better, and quickly! I love helping kids and adults overcome anxiety because it is so responsive to counseling! When people start to learn just a few tools and practice them regularly, anxiety typically takes a dramatic decline. For children, having a place to work through their big emotions and learn how to safely feel and constructively express those emotions can make a big impact. You can learn more about counseling for kids here.
Asking for help does not mean you are failing or inadequate as a parent! Contradictory from what our culture tells us, you were made to need other people. You were not made to do it all (including parenting) on your own. When you ask for help you’re modeling for other people what a mature parent does. If you’re wondering if your child might benefit from some help, reach out! Ask a pediatrician, a pastor, a friend or call a counselor.
I would love to chat with you for 30 minutes on the phone, free of charge, to see if counseling could be helpful for you or your child. Click here to start the conversation.
Photo by Janko Ferlič
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Hello and welcome! I'm Karin, I'm a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor with a private practice in New Brighton, MN serving the Twin Cities metro area, St. Paul and Minneapolis. I specialize in helping struggling kids and overwhelmed adults find relief and live a vibrant life.