Anxiety is a normal and productive emotion! You might feel anxious when faced with a problem at work, before taking a test, or when making an important decision. In the DSM-5, anxiety is defined as the anticipation of future threat. It is distinguished from fear which is defined as the emotional response to real or perceived imminent threat. From an evolutionary perspective, anxiety is an adaptive trait. It assists in survival by alerting us to avoid dangerous places or situations. There is a difference between ordinary adaptive anxiety in everyday life & invasive anxiety which interferes significantly with daily functioning.
Though we may all experience anxiety from time to time, when it comes to trying to explain to children the ins and outs of how anxiety works, we may be at a loss. When talking to children about anxiety, is important to convey that anxious children are not alone, that aside from the millions and millions of children who have an anxiety disorder, that every child experiences anxiety from time to time. It is also important to convey optimism that with the right strategies, anxious children can learn to overcome anxiety—filter out unnecessary thoughts, create a more accurate version of a situation, and learn to face their fears one step at a time.
When kids are stuck in the spin of worry, it is tempting to simply reassure them that they are fine. But then they wonder, if everything is fine, why do I still feel so scared? Rather than reassuring, if we teach children how worry works, they can challenge and outsmart the worry themselves. This worry wisdom gives kids a sense of power which they can take with them wherever they go. The first step is recognizing the sound of worry, give it a name if you like-worrybug, exaggerator guy, disaster man. The second step is deciding how much value to place on anxious messages. When we hear the "worry story" as an accurate read on a situation, we feel very anxious and out of control.
When we hear the "worry story" as an accurate read on a situation, we feel very anxious and out of control. If instead, when we hear the familiar, "what if, and oh no’s" of anxiety, we say, "I'm not listening, worry plays tricks, exaggerating risks, underestimating our ability to cope, racing ahead and catastrophizing." Instead of falling for the tricks and worrying about "the worst that could happen in a situation," we can refocus on "what we really believe is likely to happen in a situation." This smart version of the story, based on the facts not the "scaries", is much easier to handle.
Check out these programs and workshops that are currently available at YES Community Counseling. These programs are designed to enhance parenting skills and empower children within a supportive environment.
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