Bye Bye Summer…
You’ve barbequed, you’ve swam in various pools lakes and oceans, you’ve played mini golf, maybe you’ve even eaten a S’more or three and now summer is gracefully taking its leave. September is finally upon us and that means a few things; falling leaves, football and probably most notable for our kiddos, heading back to school. Often times by summer’s end parents are ready for school to start and may be craving both the structure and routine that the academic year provides for both themselves and for their children. Summer is a wonderful time, but as the great Kenny Rogers once said,” You’ve got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em”, and by August’s end most parents are more than happy to fold. Most kids however, are not. Because as you may know, school brings out a lot of big feelings for kids, and not all of them are positive.
Back to school., like it or not…
School means homework, school means learning and grasping challenging new concepts, managing friendships and social situations, listening to and following rules, getting to know a new teacher and staying focused and concentrated throughout the day. It’s a lot of stuff to think about and sometimes, especially when one of the above mentioned tasks is challenging it can bring up anxiety in our kids. Anxiety is common today and according to the CDC approximately 4.4 million children between the ages of 3-17 are diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.
So, this is anxiety!
So, now you may be asking yourself, what does all this mean and how can I tell if my child is anxious? Sometimes it might be obvious. You can just tell that your child doesn’t seem like him or herself. Maybe your generally super social kid has become withdrawn. Maybe they start avoiding certain activities or even find ways to try and stay home from school, feigning illness or exhaustion. Perhaps they complain about physical ailments such as stomachaches or headaches which to them feel totally real. Maybe your champion sleeper who usually clocks in at least 9 hours of shut eye a night suddenly can’t stay or fall asleep because they can’t turn off their brains, which are currently thinking about a zillion different things. You may notice an increase in irritability and even possibly a change in appetite. There’s a lot to look for and it’s easy for parents to miss the clues. That’s when parents have to get really good at doing underground detective work. Become the private investigator you always dreamed you would get to be and ask, ASK ALOT OF QUESTIONS! Because oftentimes kids won’t tell us how they feel, or they don’t know how to tell us how they feel. Or they aren’t even sure what they’re feeling, they just know that they don’t feel good. This is why we need to search, and talk and look and listen. Even if you worry that your interrogations may be annoying your kids, sometimes it’s the only way to find out what’s really going on.
How to be a worry helper…
Then comes the next step, what do you do with this newfound information? Feel worried and helpless? Probably, because the last things anyone wants to watch is their children suffering. But there are ways you can help. Sometimes books are great for the kids and teens to help them to better understand what they are going through, learn some coping skills to manage anxiety and in general to feel less alone. Some great books to read with your kids are:
“What to do when you worry too much, a kids quest to overcoming anxiety” By: Dawn Huebner, PHD
“Anxiety Relief for Kids: On-the-Spot Strategies to Help Your Child Overcome Worry, Panic, and Avoidance Walker” By: PhD, Bridget Flynn and Tompkins PhD ABPP, Michael A.
And a good read for older kids to help better understand and manage anxiety,
“Outsmarting Worry, an older kid’s guide to managing anxiety” By: Dawn Huebner
Meditation can help…
I am also a big proponent of meditation apps. One I routinely suggest to the clients with whom I meet who are struggling with anxiety is called “Simply Being” which can be found in your Apple App store. It offers 5, 10 and 15 minute guided meditations which can be very helpful in finding ways to breathe, relax and calm down when panic and anxiety strikes. These guided meditations can also be very helpful at bedtime to help in calming the mind shutting off the swirling thoughts in the brain. There are lots of ways you can help your child to learn to better manage their anxiety, but sometimes kids need help outside of their families. Did you know that TCFAP has 2 staff therapists on site who see children for therapy? Anxiety is one of the most common reasons that children get referred for therapy and through these sessions kids can have a space where they feel safe to talk about anything they want, better understand themselves and their worries and most importantly, are able to learn skills and gather tools to be able to manage anxiety as it comes up throughout their lives. If you think your child might benefit from seeing one of the staff therapists talk to your doctor today to make an appointment!
Other things that can contribute to anxiety…
Also-did you know that TCFAP also has an ADHD center dedicated solely to helping with both assessing and treating kids with ADHD? Maybe you’ve always suspected that your child might have ADHD or maybe school has become more of a challenge this year? Maybe maintaining focus and concentration have started creating problems in the classroom or perhaps you are noticing that you child is having difficulty controlling their impulses or making or keeping friends? These are all possible signs of ADHD and if you notice that your child is struggling in any of these areas make an appointment with you primary care provider today. We are here to help!
By Lindsey Bloomenthal, LCSW