Children often don’t have the capacity to tell us they are anxious. This is for many reasons, sometimes they’ve yet to develop the reflective capacity, they are overwhelmed by the anxiety or they might not even have learned the right “feeling words” So here are
3 Phrases children may say if they are Anxious:
1. I don’t want to go to school, can I stay with you?.
Most of us don’t want to go to work sometimes and it is perfectly normal for your child to feel separation anxiety at between the ages of 12-24 months and can then reappear when they transition to school. This is perfectly normal and try not to be too worried, so to prevent it escalating try these simple tips:
- Educate them on what anxiety is and what happens
- Name and label the anxiety, you could say something like
- I wonder/think you may be anxious, that’s ok lots of children get anxious when they are away from mummy or daddy but I know you are fine when you get there
- Have a simple goodbye routine, don’t sneak off and don’t prolong the goodbye. Tell yourself that they will survive without you.
2. My tummy hurts
Our amygdala can trigger in less than 1/10 of a second, this triggers a physical response. Our brains and guts are intimately connected by our vagus nerve. The threat response can send signals directly from the brain to the gut via the vagus nerve, causing tummy trouble. Anxiety can also influence the gastrointestinal tract to move in ways that cause pain. Tummy pain without any identifiable physical cause is so common that it has a name – functional abdominal pain. The pain is very real and can be quite severe.
What can you do:
- Accept that they may have pain and try not to minimise it.
- Again wonder with them that they are anxious, try to think what it may be about and reflect this back to them in simple words.
- Help them to learn an emotional language, positive self talk, talk about feelings at home, yours as well as theirs.
3. I Can’t Sleep
There is a link between anxiety disorders in later life and sleep dysregulation. Sleep is another transition and a time of separation from you so it’s not surprising that children can struggle sometimes. The anxious brain can be a busy one so ensure that your child has a regular bedtime routine. Ensure:
- The hour prior to bedtime, no screens as these will not only interfere with melatonin, their sleep hormone but may wind them up rather than calm them down.
- Keep lights on red or amber, this again helps the melatonin uptake.
- It’s no longer than 35 minutes tops, prolonging the moment will only escalate the anxiety.
- Name it and talk about it, problem solve around it.
- Use my Safe Haven exercise in order for them to learn ways how to regulate.
In case you missed this, here is my a free download GRADED Steps to help your Anxious Child Sleep
They may use other phrases to such as I want a pee, I’m tired, my legs and arms hurt and more. If you can educate your child on anxiety. Discuss what it means, name and label feelings, I am sure in time they will be able to ” beat the anxiety if you are struggling, seek help. With Love Catherine