Anxiety 101


Do You know Who's TalKing to You?

Though we may all experience anxiety from time to time, when it comes to trying to explain to youngsters the ins and outs of how anxiety works, we may be at a loss. When talking to children about anxiety, is important to convey that anxious children are not alone, that aside from the millions and millions of children who have an anxiety disorder, that every child experiences anxiety from time to time. It is also important to convey optimism that with the right strategies, anxious children can learn to overcome anxiety—filter out unnecessary thoughts, create a more accurate version of a situation, and learn to face their fears one step at a time.

When kids are stuck in the spin of worry, it is tempting to simply reassure them that they are fine. But then they wonder, if everything is fine, why do I still feel so scared? Rather than reassuring, if we teach children how worry works, they can challenge and outsmart the worry themselves. This worry wisdom gives kids a sense of power which they can take with them wherever they go.The first step is recognizing the sound of worry, give it a name if you like-worrybug, exaggerator guy, disaster man. The second step is deciding how much value to place on anxious messages. When we hear the "worry story" as an accurate read on a situation, we feel very anxious and out of control.

When we hear the "worry story" as an accurate read on a situation, we feel very anxious and out of control. If instead, when we hear the familiar, "what if, and oh nos" of anxiety, we say, "I'm not listening, worry plays tricks, exaggerating risks, underestimating our ability to cope, racing ahead and catastrophizing." Instead of falling for the tricks and worrying about "the worst that could happen in a situation," we can refocus on "what we really believe is likely to happen in a situation." This smart version of the story, based on the facts not the "scaries", is much easier to handle. Specific suggestions for how to approach this with very young children, and with school aged children and adolescents are included here excerpted from, Freeing Your Child from Anxiety, by Dr. Tamar Chansky.

In the absence of other explanations, kids assume that their fears and ...
In the context of a game or roleplay, parents can use puppets ...
Outside of the heat of a worry moment, you can let your ...