All children are nervous, particularly on tougher days like the first day of school or a dentist appointment. This is fairly normal but sometimes that nervousness spills over into abject terror. It is not healthy for a child, indeed for anyone to be exposed to frequent “moments of terror”, this can cause these moments to solidify from nervousness to anxiety
Anxiety – Beyond Harmless Fears
To the uninitiated, anxiety might seem to be a relatively “harmless” set of irrational fears which you may presume that a child will eventually grow out of. However, that’s not necessarily the case.
Anxiety is pervasive and if unchecked, it slowly spreads across other areas of your child’s development. Anxious children can find it hard to maintain concentration at school. It affects not only their grades but also their general levels of happiness at school.
In worse cases, anxiety causes kids to “escape” from the playground and either head home or somewhere else to feel safe.
Explore More >> Invisible Anxiety: Hiding in the Classroom
Get a Handle on your Child’s Anxiety
Asking kids directly about their anxieties usually doesn’t achieve a great deal. Kids generally don’t want to talk about “their day” and particularly don’t like talking about the bits they dislike.
As a general rule, if anxiety is present, as a parent you’ll know- or at least suspect the areas impacted by anxiety. You just need to ask some carefully worded questions to get the details.
Explore More >> Detect and Deal with Anxiety
Play for Answers to Anxiety
One of the best ways to to get a handle on your child’s anxiety is to make it a game.
To make it a game, ask each other questions about “What are you afraid of?”.
For younger children, it’s best to get them to give a score out of three. For example,
1 is Not Scared
2 is I don’t know
3 is I am scared
For older children, you can widen the scoring range to be out of five by including “a little bit scary” and “very scary”.
How to Play
To play the game, take turns and ask the other person a question. For each question you get a score, 1-3 or 1-5.
Start by asking your child some “fun” questions and move to more serious questions as the game goes on. Remember to keep adding “fun” questions whenever your child is looking disinterested.
You can end the game at any time. Establish an end point such as the first person to score 15 or 30 points ends the game. 15 to 30 points is the equivalent of choosing 5-10 “very scary” items. Don’t drag the game out for too long because if it’s still fun when it ends, your child will be keen to play it again another time.
Explore More >> The Give Point Scale – It’s Impact on Self-Regulation
Ideas for Fun Questions to Ask
How scary is….. For you?
- Sully from Monsters Inc
- Cookie Monster
- Movies you may have watched together
- Going down the slide at the park
- Harry Potter Movie
- Accidentally going to school in your PJs
Ideas for Serious Questions to Ask
How scary is….. For you?
- People looking at you
- Water going down the plug hole in the bath tub
- Writing on blackboard/whiteboard in school
- Catching the bus for school
- Buying a doughnut by yourself
- Speaking in front of the class at school
- Making a mistake in front of the whole class at school
Be sure to mix things up a little to switch between serious and fun questions. By mixing it up often, it will make it less obvious that you’re homing in on a particular topic.
Once you have a handle on the specific issues, you’ll be better placed to address them.