Did you know that one quarter of Australians will experience an anxiety condition in their lifetime? In 2015 one in fourteen young Australians, aged between 4 – 17 had experienced an anxiety disorder.
These are some pretty scary statistics and given many of our children suffer from anxiety or have a confirmed anxiety disorder we need to find ways to help them through their day.
When it comes to having a child with ADHD, Anxiety very often comes along for the ride.
Anxiety in our children can stem from various situations that are children are in such as:
- Not being able to control the situation they are in (the way they need it to go)
- Fear of the unknown and not knowing what to expect
- Worry about particular situations and what may happen
- Worry about school work or exams
- Believing that people may not like them
These are just a few examples of what may cause anxiety in our children but there may be many other situations.
Recently, my son went off to a school camp and I watched the anxiety unfold before my eyes. Getting him on that bus to head to school camp saw me draw from my skills and knowledge as a coach to allow him to feel that anxiety and work through it.
Every part of my mother being wanted to just wrap him up in my arms and take him home where he felt ‘safe’ and could predict what was going to happen but I knew this wasn’t an option, so we worked on getting him on that bus and we succeeded.
HOW DO WE HELP OUR CHILDREN WITH ANXIETY?
- Don’t avoid the situations that bring on anxiety.
Teaching and supporting our children through their anxiety will help them in the future. Unfortunately, life brings with it situations that may bring on a form of anxiety for most of us and it is important to learn the skills to work through it one way or another.
If you avoid these situations, it will just enforce the anxiety in the future and lock it into the body as a ‘go to’ reaction.
- Talk about worries, don’t belittle them
As adults we can sometimes forget that our children are children and they can have a different view on life. They may come to us with a worry that we think is absolutely ridiculous, but they are telling themselves a story that they believe to be true.
It is important to acknowledge the story for what it is. Don’t laugh, or shrug it off as something that is silly, understand it and accept that this is something that is worrying them.
Talk about it and understand what it is that is worrying them. Ask them if they can think of any solutions around working through it. What could they do instead, what could they think about instead?
Maybe offer suggestions and what they could do and ask them how they feel about that.
- Teach them coping skills & positive thinking
Work with them and discuss ways they can cope with their anxiety. Sit down together and do a go to list. This is a list of things they could do or think about as soon as they realise they are becoming anxious about something.
Let them accept the thought into their mind, acknowledge that it is there and then change the thought.
The list could be things such as other things to think about, something to do to change the physical feeling, like walking, dancing or putting on loud music. Basically, anything that can help them through the anxiety.
Teaching them these skills would be so valuable in the future and they are never too young to learn.
In coaching we commonly talk about the Power of the Pause. This is where we stop and think about what is going on. We can teach our children to Pause in many scenarios but when it comes to anxiety it is useful as well.
Teach your child to stop and take some deep breaths. Breath in through the nose for 3 seconds, hold for 3 seconds and then breath out for 5 seconds. Always may the breath out longer than the breath in and hold seconds. This will help the body calm down and rethink.
It is s common strategy used in meditation to get the mind to slow down.
This is such a powerful strategy and allows time for the brain to refocus and think about the scenario in a different light.
When anxiety starts kicking in, rationale can be ‘kicking out’ so by pausing it gives time to refocus on what is important and potentially calm down.
- Be a Role Model
From time to time we all find ourselves in situations where anxiety arises, it is important to show our children how we manage it in ourselves.
Are you using meditation to calm anxiety? If so, talk to your children about this and how it helps you. Talk to them about how your body felt when you were anxious and what was going on with you and how you worked through it.
Did you take deep breaths to get you through? How did that work out for you? Tell our children the answers to those questions and they will learn from it.
Modelling how we deal with anxiety in certain situations can be a huge benefit to our children.
Of course, if your child is suffering from extreme anxiety and it is affecting their daily life and stopping them from doing things like going to school or going out etc, then it is time to see help from the professionals and this is perfectly OK.
Another alternative is to work with a coach to help you implement strategies for your children and yourself. We can work with you to develop that list of ‘go to’ strategies in the event anxiety arises.
If you would like to ask a question or speak with me further about this then book in for a free 15-minute phone call with me.
You can book in my calendar here:
Paula is an ADHD coach, parent advocate and author who is passionate about helping families affected by ADHD and changing society’s opinion on ADHD. Paula is available for speaking events also.
If you want
more information on how to work with your ADHD child feel free to contact Paula
 3303.0 ABS Causes of Death, Australia, 2014 (2016). Underlying causes of death (Australia) Tables 11.1 and 11.3