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7860 Mission Center Ct, Suite 209
San Diego, CA, 92108

858.354.4077

At The Center for Stress and Anxiety Management, our psychologists have years of experience. Unlike many other providers, our clinicians truly specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of anxiety and related problems. Our mission is to apply only the most effective short-term psychological treatments supported by extensive scientific research. We are located in Rancho Bernardo, Carlsbad, and Mission Valley.

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Read our award-winning blogs for useful information and tips about anxiety, stress, and related disorders.

 

Filtering by Tag: adolescents

Five Ways Parents Can Help Children with Political Anxiety

Jill Stoddard

Guest Post by Tracy Dunne-Derrell, writer at Teach.com

One hundred years from now, America in 2017 will exist only in history books. Those future writers will have plenty of material to work with: mass shootings, terrorism fears, international turmoil, and “fake news.” But those facts probably won’t capture the anxiety that’s been generated by these events. A poll conducted earlier this year by the American Psychological Association found more than half of American adults cited the current political climate as a source of stress.  

Children are feeling anxious too. A recent UCLA survey found that 51% of teachers reported more anxiety among their students. As a parent, the past year may have presented you with unique challenges as your children grappled with a range of emotions- from general anxiety to personal stress over the impact potential policies could have on them and their friends. You may have a child who’s finding that current events are causing anxiety, and are struggling to figure out how to best provide support.

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As an adult, you might be experiencing negative feelings too, but you have the advantage of being able to channel them productively by contacting elected officials and engaging in activism and service. And you’re more likely to have developed meaningful ways to help yourself get through uncertain, difficult times. But your children might not be able to grasp the concepts that are troubling and confusing to them, and they may lack the skills they need to identify and cope with their feelings. Here are some ways to help them.

1. Listen, but accept that you might not always have good answers. 

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As a parent, you may be tempted to help by dismissing and downplaying the concerns and worries of your anxious child. But this approach, while well-intentioned, isn’t helpful. Validating kids’ concerns and making sure they understand that it’s ok to feel what they’re feeling is important.  And unfortunately, you can’t magically erase the sources of stress for them. But you can be a sympathetic ear, and make a point to spend a little time each day talking to them about their concerns. Help them develop coping skills, which won’t eliminate the sources of negative feelings, but will help them learn to work through them. The ability to cope with challenging times is a necessary life skill.

2. Help them take action.

With so much beyond their control, your kids may find themselves feeling powerless. They might want to do something to distract them from their fears and help them feel like they’re contributing to the world in a positive way. Some adults are channeling their concerns into helping others, and there are ways children can do the same. Talk with them about some of the needs they observe in your community, and help them think of ways to address them. Young children can choose items from the grocery store to donate to a local food pantry, while older ones can join service-oriented local organizations, or look for a project to support, like a winter coat drive. Even small actions help students feel like they matter, and lead to a life-long involvement with community service.

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3. Connect with the school counselor.

Kids spend a substantial amount of time in school, and their counselors are a valuable resource. School counselors are already trained to help students learn to manage a wide range of situations and challenges. And they’ve got ample materials to help them work with students who are living with political anxiety. Last year the American School Counselor Association published a guide for counselors, with suggestions for supporting children experiencing post-election stress. Sitting down with a school counselor could be a great opportunity for your child to share his or her fears with a trained professional. Ask for ideas and strategies to use at home to talk about current events, and the feelings these events generate.

4. Examine the impact of technology.

News and social media might play a role in fostering negative feelings. Escaping bad news used to be as easy as turning off the television and radio. Now, with 24-hour cable channels, mobile apps, and social media, it’s almost impossible to get a break from current events. Consider the role screen time with televisions and gadgets may be playing in your child’s politics-related stress. Evaluate the amount of time your child spends watching and reading news, and discuss alternative activities which may help them manage their stress.

5. Talk about previous times our country experienced turmoil and got through it.

It feels like we’re going through unprecedented uncertainty, but America has faced crisis before, more than once. Our country has survived wars, recessions, and natural disasters. Your children likely have some awareness of challenging times in our history, but events of long ago probably feel abstract to them; they may not be able to connect past and present. Depending on your age, you may have your own personal stories to share which might resonate with your anxious children and help them feel more optimistic. For example, during the 1970s, Watergate dominated the news, and led to concerns about government. In the 1980s, the Cold War between the United States and the former Soviet Union generated fears as both countries and their allies engaged in an arms race, generating legitimate concerns over the possibility of nuclear war. Share your stories and take this opportunity to talk with your kids about America’s resilience.

Providing support for anxious kids is challenging, but it is possible. As a parent, you know your child better than anyone, and are the best person to help them manage stress and anxiety. However, if you need some outside support to help your child, you can check your child’s school for resources, and reach out to outside resources, like local therapists, as well.

CSAM IS HERE TO HELP

If you or someone you love might benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), or biofeedback for anxiety, depression, stress, or PTSD, or if you would like more information about our therapy services, please contact us at (858) 354-4077 or at info@csamsandiego.com

"Mommy, My Tummy Hurts": Anxiety and Kids

Jill Stoddard

by Jan Estrellado, M.A.

No one wants to think about children struggling with anxiety.  However, anxiety disorders are the most common psychiatric disorder in teens and tend to start around the age of 6 (Merikangas et al., 2010). 

Image source:  http://www.indusladies.com/parenting/10-tips-to-help-your-child-overcome-her-pre-examination-stress/

Image source:  http://www.indusladies.com/parenting/10-tips-to-help-your-child-overcome-her-pre-examination-stress/

What does anxiety look like in children and adolescents?  Does it differ from adults?  To find out these answers, one can look to the research and to mental health clinicians with experience in these areas.  

How Common is Anxiety in Kids?

Anxiety disorders are the most common psychiatric disorder of 13 to 18 year olds (40.2%; Merikangas et al., 2010).  Of the teens with anxiety disorders, 8.3% are severely impaired by their anxiety disorder.  However, 80% of kids with an anxiety disorder do not receive treatment.  Interestingly, kids tend to develop anxiety disorders at the age of 6 (versus age 11 for ADHD and age 13 for mood disorders, like depression).  

Why might it be that the most common psychiatric disorder in young people goes largely untreated?  One reason may be that parents, caregivers, and teachers may not know some common signs of anxiety in kids.

What Does Anxiety Look Like in Kids?

All kids feel anxious at one time or another, as stress is a normal part of life.  In addition, many kids with shy personalities may tend to feel more nervous in general than their peers.  So how does a parent know when their child’s anxiety becomes a problem?

When stress starts to get in the way of life’s activities, like withdrawing from friends, avoiding school, having trouble sleeping, experiencing difficulty being away from parents, or lashing out at loved ones, then unmanaged stress can damage the child or teen’s physical and mental health.  Kids who suffer from anxiety tend to see their fears as catastrophic (Miller, 2012), which can be puzzling and confusing to some parents.  Children may get extremely upset when parents or caregivers prepare to leave and may cling very tightly to their parents.  

Anxiety in children may look different than in adults because kids may lack skills to express their fears and stressors.  They may experience symptoms that take place in the body, also known as somatic symptoms.  In young children with anxiety disorders, the most common somatic symptoms are restlessness (74%), stomachaches (70%), blushing (51%), palpitations (48%), muscle tension (45%), sweating (45%), and trembling/shaking (43%) (Ginsburg, Riddle, & Davies, 2006).  Children who experience these somatic symptoms are more likely to have severe anxiety and higher levels of impairment.

What can parents and caregivers do?

Image source: http://www.intentionallife.me/slowmotion/

Image source: http://www.intentionallife.me/slowmotion/

Parents often know if their child is facing high levels of anxiety because they observe the child to be more anxious than his or her peers (Miller, 2012).  In addition, the child’s anxiety gets in the way of everyday functioning, such as school, sleepovers, and swim class. Parents, teachers, and significant caregivers play important roles in a child’s ability to manage anxiety successfully.

The best advice I have for parents is to remain calm and focus on self-care.
— Dr. Starr MacKinnon, CSAM psychologist

Parents whose children present with these symptoms may feel their child is being manipulative or lying in order to get out of school or other activities.  Learning more about your child’s fears, what management strategies you can teach your child, and how you can be supportive are successful keys to helping kids overcome their anxiety.  CSAM’s own child/teen specialist, Dr. Starr MacKinnon shares that it’s important for parents to take care of themselves: “The best advice I have for parents is to remain calm and focus on self-care. The truth is, your children will predominantly learn from the model you provide them and are less impacted by your words.  Children and adolescents are sponges and they will often grow up and engage in the same self-talk, behaviors, and coping that you do. So the more that you can take care of yourself and be the person you want your children to be, the better it will be for all of you.”

There are additional strategies parents and caregivers can use when helping kids cope with anxiety (Miller, 2012):

  • Explain to the child that his or her feelings of worry or dread are caused by a condition called anxiety.
  • Help the child notice the connection between anxiety and shallow, rapid breathing. Teach the child how to breathe slowly and into the belly.
  • Encourage the child to replace anxious “red light” thoughts (“that dog will bite me”) with more helpful and realistic “green light” thoughts (“most dogs don’t bite kids”).”

Another way that Miller encourages parents to support children is through gradual learning and patience.  If a child has intense fears about making a speech in front of his or her class, consider having the child read it in front of one parent first, then the family, followed by a few close friends, and so on, until the child feels confident enough to speak in front of a larger group.

If a child’s anxiety symptoms persist despite their caregivers’ best efforts, seeking professional help is recommended.  Mental health professionals who specialize in anxiety treatment with kids can help train the children to develop coping strategies to manage anxiety, but can also coach caregivers to reinforce these strategies while the child is in school and at home.  

Help is Here!

Parents and caregivers are the most important factor influencing whether kids develop effective coping skills to manage anxiety.  The Center for Stress and Anxiety Management is here to help.  Starr MacKinnon, PhD, is a licensed psychologist with a specialty interest in working with children and teens with anxiety disorders.  Dr. MacKinnon shared what she enjoys about working with kids and teens: “I love working with children and teens because often they are more flexible and open to self-exploration and growth…I love helping kids and adolescents to gain insight into who they want to become so that the barriers to living that life can be addressed."

Click here to speak with Dr. MacKinnon or another professional at the Center for Stress and Anxiety Management.  

References:

Ginsburg, G. S., Riddle, M. A., & Davies, M. (2006). Somatic Symptoms in Children and Adolescents With Anxiety Disorders. Journal Of The American Academy Of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 45(10), 1179-1187. doi:10.1097/01.chi.0000231974.43966.6e

Merikangas, K. R., He, J., Burstein, M., Swanson, S. A., Avenevoli, S., Cui, L., & ... Swendsen, J. (2010). Lifetime prevalence of mental disorders in U.S. adolescents: Results from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication-Adolescent Supplement (NCS-A). Journal Of The American Academy Of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 49(10), 980-989. doi:10.1016/j.jaac.2010.05.017

Miller, L. (2012).  Early screening for anxiety disorders in children helps prevent mental health concerns: UBC study [Press release].  Retrieved from http://news.ubc.ca/2012/04/16/early-screening-for-anxiety-disorders-in-children-helps-prevent-mental-health-concerns-ubc-study/