Christmas can be tough on many of us. The constant festivities, the sounds, the smells, the intensity and the sensory overload that comes from seemingly non-stop celebrations. But spare a moment to think – how do kids with anxiety cope?
How Anxiety May Manifest
Anxiety manifests in different ways for different people. You may well be noticing the following changes in your child, particularly as the pressures of the festive season begin to take their toll.
· Increased restlessness
· Inability to concentrate
· Shaking or trembling
· Spiralling anxious thoughts – end of the world feelings
· Catastrophising – working through every possible bad thing that could go wrong and being convinced that a negative outcome is coming
· Inability to sleep or over-sleeping (taking multiple naps throughout the day to ‘shut off’)
· Difficulties with eating or a loss of appetite
· Strong desire to stay away from people (self-retreat)
· Repetitive behaviours like scratching or itching (or variants of self-harm)
These are only a few symptoms of anxiety, so if you need professional help make sure you seek professional help. For more concentrated help and targeted support, contact an agency like Lifeline, Kids Help Line or Beyond Blue.
How do I help my anxious child?
It’s potentially more straight forward than you may think: Listen.
Even if they’re not talking. Your child will be able to let you know that there are certain situations (like crazy Christmas shopping crowds) that they are not comfortable in.
Talk everything through with your child – where are you going? Who will be there? How long will you be there for? Placing firm parameters around events can assure your child of the expectations and duration of what you will be asking them do to. Pre-arming them with as much knowledge as possible can push down anxious thoughts.
Let your child have a say! What would they like to do? Obviously, there will be some obligations, but if you can encourage your child to take part in your Christmas festive decision-making process then giving them some ownership over the situation may pay off big time down the line.
Lastly, let them escape a little. Have fun with their friends. Let them read their books or even (gasp) play safe, online games to let them have the chance to be a kid and get some of their anxieties out in a social way.
Take some time out for yourself
This is a tricky bundle to carry for any parent as you feel like you have to be ‘on’ and totally aware of every move in order to anticipate the moods and shifts of your child.
This can be problematic for you and you may well feel burnt out. It’s important to take a moment to breathe, relax and get away (if possible) so you can recharge. After all, one cannot fill from an empty cup.