As parents, we recognize that when our child hesitates to enter a party, or looks down and fiddles with something, that they might be feeling nervous or anxious. And when we see anxiety present in this way, we want to help. We don’t always know how, but seeing your child be nervous to talk to someone or anxious to try something new usually brings out our feelings of empathy and compassion – well maybe our own anxiety, too.
But what about when our child is running around teasing their sister before school? Or when they snap at you in the car at pick up? Chances are you feel annoyed, maybe even angry. But, quite often this, too, is how anxiety can show up in children.
Children with stress or anxiety will act out or act in, and they are likely to elicit different responses. If you, as a parent can understand these, you can alter your response.
Anxiety, whether a pervasive issue for your child or something that just comes up related to certain events, is essentially a form of worry or unease. And if you are reading this blog, chances are it’s something that is getting in the way. We all worry. And worry has a place. For example, when we start worrying about money, we tend to our budget better. But the problem arises when the worry actually keeps us from taking actions or doing things. For example, the worry about money makes it hard to look at the budget, we ignore it and just get anxious about every purchase instead. So when your child is so nervous about school that they have trouble getting out the door, you as a parent want to help interrupt that cycle of anxiety. So, why can’t they get out the door?
You have likely heard of the stress responses of fight, flight or freeze. These same responses show up when we are anxious. But while we more easily recognize and empathize with the child who is freezing and looking down, we don’t always see it when it comes out as fight, or even flight. Let’s face it, when we are being yelled at by our child, or see our child fighting, or we have to chase them, we are more likely to be upset.
By recognizing fight, flight, or freeze as signs of stress or anxiety, we are more likely to find a way to help – even if we are upset, too. When your child is fighting with their sibling before school, consider that this may be a sign of anxiety. In our course, Building Confidence, Trust and Hope: Three ways to help a child who is anxious, we not only help you lower that stress response but find ways to help your child take the necessary steps to interrupt the cycle of anxiety.