June 4, 2015
are a big deal
Q: My 7 year old child is
highly anxious, often about things I feel aren't that
big of a deal. How should I respond to her? Should I ignore
her or allow her to talk about her worries every day?
A: When children experience
high levels of stress and anxiety, it can lead to a number
of unwanted outcomes, including explosive behavior. High
levels of stress and big emotions related to poor social
negotiation skills, difficult educational demands, upsetting
sensory issues, and general frustration are more common
than you might think. According to the 2013 report by
the Center for Disease Control, anxiety is the most frequent
of all mental disorders in children.
In my work with children
who experience anxiety, I have found that often parents,
teachers and therapists respond to the unwanted behavior
without recognizing the need to address the underlying
anxiety. For example, a teacher might respond to a screaming
child by saying, "make a good choice" or "that
behavior is not OK" or "use your words".
These responses assume the child has the skills needed
to make that choice or to verbally communicate the overwhelming
feeling she is experiencing.
When My Worries Get Too
Big! is a book written to help parents, teachers and
therapists to support a highly anxious child using a more
systematic and cognitive approach. The idea is to teach
the child what anxiety is; how anxiety feels; what situations
typically causes him to feel that way; and what to do
about the feeling before it gets too big.
More than any other issue,
a loss of emotional control can impact how peers and adults
think about a child. A well meaning adult might view the
child as "difficult" and an otherwise caring
peer might become fearful of being around him. These responses
can greatly hinder the child's social and academic success
in school. Lack of understanding and rejection can actually
lead to increased stress and result in chronic worry,
where the child experiences ongoing low levels of anxiety
in environments that require flexible social thinking
or problem solving.
It is therefore critical
that we help children to learn about and control their
emotions, in a safe, direct and yet non-judgmental way.
When My Worries Get Too
Big! uses a story format to introduce young children
to the idea of worries, and how sometimes worries get
so big that it is too hard to control them. The book then
gives the child an opportunity to label and define her
own levels of worry. Finally, the story introduces a systematic
relaxation sequence for the child to practice prior to
events that might typically cause big emotions.
Back to the Top