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A Kids Guide to Overcoming Worry & Anxiety (made simple)

 

Anxiety: Is my kid going to be OK?

 

When something is wrong with your kid— your world stops.

 

It just does.

 

Anxiety can stop a kid’s world right in its tracks.

 

People can tell you it’s fine and not to worry about it—that it’s just a phase –but it’s YOUR kid and YOU know there is something wrong—and it’s NOT okay— and it’s NOT just a phase.

You haven’t shared with them that this has been going on for a while.

 

You have not shared with them all the dirty details of how anxiety has been torturing not just your kid but the whole family--because if you talk about it— then it somehow becomes more


real. The school knows though. Their teachers know too-- and the other kids are starting to realize your kid is not like the rest of them. They are a little different. And that scares the heck out of you.

 

Getting them to school is a nightmare. You never know what’s coming next. They won’t join a sport’s team or if they do they won’t always go to practice or a game. Their world is becoming smaller and smaller. And your becoming very afraid that there is something seriously wrong with your kid.

 

You think you may get fired if you have to leave work one more time to pick them up from school again. If that phone rings one more time? Your out of options and excuses.

 

You get calls at least three times a week from the principal. At first the calls were kind and caring— now they just want them “picked up” because they are disturbing the school. You’re scared because you know you have to do something but you don’t know what.

 

You’re sad, scared, frustrated and angry that no one can or has helped you.

 

You’ve talked to their pediatrician— maybe even gotten a referral to a child psychologist but that’s a big step. You’re not there yet.

 

You wonder if maybe your mother is right, maybe it is just a phase. After all, they were fine for an entire week straight. No phone calls from the school and the lunchbox came home empty! They even came home talking about this new friend they made. Things are looking up. You hope that maybe it will pass. But deep inside you’re just waiting for the other shoe to drop and have it start all over again.

 

You tried to figure out what was different that one glorious week where you got no phone calls from the school and their lunch box came home empty. That one week you felt normal— your shoulders finally relaxed. You thought maybe she’s fine now—that it WAS just a phase—but then your phone rings—your gut sinks—and deep inside you know you have to do something. You’re just not sure what.

 

You are not alone. Many parents are experiencing the same thing. Yes, it's true. I get calls all the time.  They are just not talking openly about it hoping they will find an answer or it will pass before it becomes real. And that’s OK.

 

So what do you do?

 

First of course be sure to have your child seen by their doctor to rule out any physical issues that could be causing the anxious symptoms. If they check out and your doctor agrees that it is simply anxiety not caused by any physical concerns keep reading.

 

There are two ways of treating anxiety but it all depends on the type of anxiety.

Situational, Specific or Phobia type of Anxiety

 

If the anxiety seems to be tied to a particular situation your best bet is to apply the Exposure technique which is basically facing your fear head on until that fear is literally extinguished. It can be scary and the anxious sensations overwhelming. Many avoid Exposure because they cannot handle the scary sensations so they need a temporary crutch to get them through the exposure process. For children this crutch is called the MFC, as found in Scaredies Away: A Kid’s Guide to Overcome Worry & Anxiety. This tool was designed after the adult version taught in Panic Away and Dare by Barry McDonagh.

 

Generalized Anxiety- the kind that is always there-just lingering around-not specific to any one thing or situation

 

If however, it seems like the anxiety is more generalized—like it always seems to be there not really tied to anything imparticular—as in Generalized Anxiety Disorder, you must approach this with a two pronged approach: Exposure (see above) and Closing the Cognitive Dissonance Gap (read below).

 

First, you must find out the person’s Cognitive Discrepancy. I will get to what that is in a minute.  Usually with generalized anxiety there is a discrepancy between a person’s core beliefs, values and desires and their reality. Discovering a person’s core beliefs, values and desires and comparing them to what’s actually going on in their life will often lead you to the cause of the anxiety, or their cognitive discrepancy. After all, anxiety is just a symptom, more often than not, of a sadness or depression.

 

The person does not need to be clinically depressed to have anxiety—just a little sadness, where what you want is not what “is” –is enough to do the trick.

 

Dig in. Discover what rocks your or your kid’s world and figure out what’s missing. Check in with them. Help them to connect their often hidden core beliefs, values or desires with their reality and watch them begin to overcome the anxious symptoms.

 

I have designed a tool called the Individualized Core Value Roadmap (ICVR) which helps to discover hidden core beliefs and then helps you to discover your individualized cognitive discrepancy and finally, helps you to close the gap between your beliefs and your reality reducing sadness, depression and the resulting anxiety. This tool will be released in my new book, The Cause of it All, in the upcoming year. I am very excited to share this tool with you.

 

In the meantime, start by having your child fill in the following sentences so you can get an idea of what might be missing, why they might be sad or depressed. You will be surprised as to what you can discover about your child by just taking a few short minutes to ask them a few questions.

 

Here are the sentences to have them complete. I use these questions in every single psychological evaluation I do. It’s amazing what a few sentences can reveal.

 

  1. If I could change one thing about (school) (home) it would be __________________ because then __________________________.

 

      2. I wish I could ___________________________ because then _____________________.

 

These are great ice breakers and leads in to what is missing from your child's life, according to them.

 

Keep in mind this goes the same for kids experiencing anger. Anger is also a symptom of a sadness and or depression—there is some need not being met. It’s our job to help these kids figure out what’s missing and give them the tools to help to reduce the gap between their values, beliefs and desires and their reality.

 

One step. One day. One Blog at a time.

 

Deep breathe.

You got this.

We got this.

 

Best,

Stacy Fiorile, MA, CAGS, NJCSP, NCSP

School Psychologist

Best Selling Author of Scaredies Away: A Kid's Guide to Overcoming Worry & Anxiety (made simple)

 

 

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