Twenty-twenty has unquestionably been the year to keep adults, off balance, under pressure, and seriously stressed out. However, adults aren’t the only ones who are feeling everything that the year has to bring. Children are feeling it too. Childhood in itself is an emotional roller-coaster, yet add in a mixture of school closings, a global pandemic, masks, social injustice, political uncertainty, and many children, just like adults, are at their wits end.
Today.com sat down with the experts to talk about stress and anxiety in children and here are four signs from their article that you may not realize are pointing to the fact that your child just might be stressed out and anxious.
My stomach hurts
Sometimes a stomach ache is just a stomach ache; however, other times it may be a result of anxiety.
“When you’re anxious, your body can go into fight or flight mode, and as your body prepares itself for battle, it shuts down unnecessary functions such as digestion. This can cause discomfort, gas, irregularity or even vomiting. Look for patterns in your child’s discomfort. Do they frequently feel unwell before tests? Before performances? Or during times of great change and uncertainty? It may be anxiety talking,” the article suggests.
The best way to help control an anxious stomach is to practice a deep, slow breathing techniques. This will calm the heart and send oxygen to the brain, easing the body’s fight or flight response to the nerves/anxiety.
Usually avoidant kids are seen as unmotivated and uninterested, but in some cases avoidance can mean much more. Avoidance allows us to detach and not face fears.
“When something makes us uncomfortable (like struggling with homework), or when we’re afraid of failing (like when we try out for a team) and we allow ourselves to avoid that uncomfortable thing, there’s a short-term benefit that feels good,” the experts state in the article. “However, avoidance eventually reinforces the anxiety, and next time we’re faced with the challenge, we feel even worse.”
Help them find ways that will break down larger intimidating goals and tasks. Smaller goals and tasks are easier to accomplish. It feels great to strike them off of your “to-do” list and they will feel the same.
A string of “what if” questions point to your child’s mind being in overdrive. They are soring through the “what if’s” of the future. This is called prospection, a survival mechanism that helps us prepare for any future outcome. Some prospection is healthy, yet it may set some children up with struggling to see the present and always worrying about what is to come.
“Help your child or teen come back to the present by asking different questions. Instead of “what if,” ask “what is?” What are you feeling right now? What are you seeing right now? Or, have them make a plan by answering their own “what if” questions and writing their answers down in the form of if/then statements. ‘If school is canceled again, I will see my friends online.” “If my mom or dad gets sick, they will get help from a doctor.'”
Hitting, screaming, tantrums…all can be a sign of something else. Anger is a secondary emotion, with worry or anxiety more than likely among the primary.
“Investigate what’s happening that makes them uncomfortable. What are they protecting? Give your angry child your full attention. Remind them that you are there to help them work through any struggles they’re facing. Ask them questions like, “What is it that feels threatening to you?” or “what’s the hardest part about what you’re feeling?” The answers will lead you to the root of their outbursts.”
Help them walk through their anger to discover the root of its source. This will help them mature in understanding their emotions much more so than not.
As we march through the remainder of the year together, as a family, focus on the good moments that have made you smile, be safe, keep yourself healthy, and know that there is light in darkness.