It’s the Autumn term and for children who suffer from anxiety, it may be a time when you notice some big feelings. They may present as angry or oppositional prior to starting school. They may have a big outburst at school, upset that class member has said something that’s been misunderstood. If this sounds like your child, you may not realise your child may be suffering from social anxiety or another form of anxiety.
Unrecognised Anxiety and Disruptive Behaviour
Disruptive behaviour may be a sign that your child is anxious. Depending on their age, your child may not be even aware that they are anxious or be able to articulate how they feel. In younger children, they are likely to cling and hold on to you more rather than become aggressive but they, in addition, have meltdowns too.
Anxiety the Great Deceiver
Anxiety manifests in a surprising variety of ways in part because it is based on a physiological response to a threat in the environment, we call this the “Fight” or “Flight” response. So while some children exhibit anxiety by shrinking from situations or objects that trigger fears, some react with an overwhelming need to break out of an uncomfortable situation with either fight or flight. The more commonly recognized symptoms of anxiety in a child are things like trouble sleeping in his own room or separating from his parents, avoidance of certain activities, a sensitive temperament. Anyone would recognize those symptoms but the more oppositional, angry or aggressive can be harder to identify.
Problems at school
It’s not uncommon for children with serious undiagnosed anxiety to be disruptive at school, where demands and expectations put pressure on them that they can’t handle. And it can be very confusing to teachers and other staff members to “read” that behavior, which can seem to come out of nowhere. Children often have lots of ” fallouts” with peers as they are misreading situation due to the anxiety.
How to identify Anxiety
It probably occurs more than we think, either it’s anxiety that looks disruptive or anxiety in combination with disruptive behaviors. It’s always good to have a thorough assessment with a professional. Sometimes I use a RACDS questionnaire, this can identify what types of anxiety your child may be suffering from. In addition, I’ve written another page discussing different symptoms and classifications, click>> here
Tips on what to do if your child is Anxious and Disruptive
Educate and explain anxiety, teach your child about the fight or flight response and our amygdala and everyone feels anxious from time to time. This does not need to be all in one go, so chats whilst you are drawing or car journeys are great. I talked about a lot of things during a car journey, everyone knows that there is a beginning and an end. This is a video I did for Understanding Anxiety blog, there is a link at the bottom of the post.
Help them to breathe
Deep breathing really helps the amygdala to calm and feel soothed. They can breathe from their hears or belly by placing their hands on each and then breathing in and out through their nose. Practice this throughout the day, not only when they are anxious. For younger children, show them how by using a teddy or lovey. Some children need to move so teach them the turtle technique. help them to calm down in their shell. Just remember if you need to do this many times, this enables connections in their higher brain. Remember neuronal connections develop from the bottom up.
Help them to make different choices.
They can’t change their behaviour until they have some ways to manage it, then you can help them to make different choices. You may have to give some limits, especially if they hit out. Sit down and work together on a plan if this how they manage the anxiety. Involving your child will result in their co-operation. This can take time, as we all get into habits so take every day at a time.
When you see them doing well, praise them and express your belief in them!! Praise needs to be:
- Not just words but pats and smiles too.
- Dont forget to praise in front of others, it makes your child feel great!
Ask the teacher, liaise with the school
Develop a consistent home and school plan to manage the anxiety and disruptive, schools are often really helpful in these circumstances and I’ve always found its helpful to work and gain support from them.
Wishing you all a smooth transition into the new Autumn term. If you feel that you are unable to manage the anxiety, so contact me for a consultation or attend my two and one part AnxietyWorkshops starting in September and November. With Love Catherine