My friend Cindy recently invited me to attend a screening of the film “Angst” at her daughter’s school. “Angst” is a film that explores the causes, and effects, of anxiety and offers resources and strategies to counter the challenges of anxiety. Children and teens who suffer, or who have suffered, from anxiety give candid interviews in the film and share how anxiety affects their lives. “Angst” is definitely worth seeing as it conveys how truly exhausting every day can feel for young people with anxiety.
How can you tell whether your child’s level of anxiety is typical and appropriate, or something that a parent should be concerned about?
Typical anxiety is an expected response to a potentially stressful situation and it doesn’t happen very often. Typical anxiety can morph into an anxiety problem when a child’s intense feelings of worry last for an extended period of time and are out of proportion to the actual situation.
For example, typical anxiety is feeling nervous about an upcoming test and the anxiety decreases as soon as the test is over. But with an anxiety problem, a child may feel nervous about a test AND feel nervous every single morning before school AND feel worried about a weekend birthday party AND feel anxious about a trip scheduled six months in the future. Further, children and teens with an anxiety disorder may have physical symptoms such as headaches, stomachaches and trouble sleeping.
What can you do?
Take your child’s fears seriously but express your confidence in her ability to handle the situation. Remind your child of past successes and what strategies have worked in the past.
Try to avoid unintentionally rewarding your child’s anxiety. For example, allowing your
child to miss a field trip or to stay home from school on a test day. By doing so, you are
conveying the unspoken message that your child’s fears are well-founded because
your child knows that you would make them go to school and take the test, or attend the
field trip if you thought it was truly safe.
And once you allow a child to miss an event that is making him anxious, your child
knows that opting out is definitely an option for future events.
The key is to ask yourself: Is my child’s anxiety interfering with his or her functioning in everyday life?
If you think your child’s anxiety rises to the level of a problem, I suggest you consider having him evaluated by a mental health professional. Your child can learn coping strategies that you can practice at home and that will make life easier for your child.
If you are feeling overwhelmed by your child’s anxiety, I am here to help! I can offer you strategies that will decrease your own anxiety and will allow you to teach your child coping strategies. Please give me a call at 310-849-6751 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org