Welcome to the age of anxiety. It is everywhere. Turn on the TV and you hear about it. Open social media and you will see it. Go to a school ask a teacher and the teacher will say it is huge. Talk to other parents and they will say that they are dealing with it. What is it? Why are so many kids so debilitated by it?
This first step is understanding what it feels like to kids. Here is a good video that is a short walk in someone’s shoes that has anxiety. (Please excuse an inappropriate word that is said.)
Anxiety has been on the rise for our nation. Over the last 5 years, it has been increasingly been an issue with high school students. The last two years it has dropped to younger kids throughout our country. Statics show that there is a dramatic increase in kids being hospitalized for anxiety and depression. There are many theories of why such as technology, over scheduling, increased pressure of school, intense parenting. Whatever the reason we can not fix that but we have to deal with it.
It is real. The kids are not making it up. They are not being dramatic. Here are some words that a some of kids that I work with who are diagnosed with anxiety disorder describe it - “scary, uncomfortable, nerve wracking, annoying, frustrating”.
They have panic attacks which is the body's response to fight or flight. The anxiety makes their mind believe that they are in a life or death situation. Their thoughts are irrational. Their heart races, they sweat, they get dizzy, they feel like their world is a tunnel, they can not focus, they feel the loss of reality, they feel like they are in a bubble, they feel like they can not breath, overall they feel the need to escape.
In order to help with the anxiety, we need to get them to using strategies - deep breathing, intense focus, grounding, re-framing, reality checks. As parents it is important that we do not let our kids avoid and escape situations. Each time that anxiety wins and kids avoid or escape, the anxiety becomes stronger and slowly takes over the child’s life as well as the family’s life.
What can you do? Please just understand that these kids are not faking, they are not making things up, they are not doing this on purpose. Please just try to understanding but firm. That sounds very contradictory. Think of it t
his way if your child had broken bone you would help them but ultimately the child has to still do things. Right now there is a part of their brain that is really struggling. I know it is frustrating and difficult. It is hard especially when you see your child dealing with this struggle. There is a lot of good information out there on how to support anxiety but if you are struggling we are here to support you and your child.