Child anxiety, can present as refusal or reluctance to go to school which so easily arises from a child’s anxiety manifesting as extreme shyness or nervousness. They could have difficulty or fear interacting with their peers so develop a strong need to stay at home with family members. Their anguish may be expressed in the form of frequent temper tantrums, crying bouts, broken sleep and/or nightmares. Bedwetting is not unusual. The anxious child who does attend school may also have difficulty in concentrating and so their academic performance tends to drops off, neither is it unusual for children to present with physical complaints such as headaches, stomach-ache, muscle aches and general tiredness.
Tackling child anxiety successfully is of paramount importance for the sanity and well-being of both parent and child. We need to therefore consider a number of strategies.
Firstly, we need to question how effective we are as Primary carers/parents in creating a stable, predictable environment at home. What this means, is that we need to develop routines at home so our children know what is coming up next. The bedtime routine for instance, has the same format each evening i.e. the evening meal is followed by play time then having a wash/bath and leading to getting dressed into pyjamas prior to a cuddle and read before bed. Likewise there would be a set routine in the morning which might be getting dressed after getting up, eating breakfast and only playing with toys/watching TV when they are completely ready for school. These examples do sound quite ‘picture perfect’ especially when these two periods of the day are the very times that our children are likely to play up and become difficult to manage. So how might we manage this situation positively, how might we make it happen?
As parents we need to buy into the concept of being consistent and therefore being predictable. No matter how much our children play up, we need to resist giving in and consistently stick to the set of home rules that we have already put in place. These prominently placed home rules of which there should be no more than five, are placed somewhere visible (in picture form for younger children). House rule examples could be something like ‘Always use a quiet voice indoors’, ‘Always knock and wait, before entering someone’s bedroom’, ‘Always be polite to each other’, ‘Balls are for the outdoors only’.
We make our house rules to suit the smooth running of our own family unit, so they may vary from family to family. Needless to say, small rewards (other than food, sweets and money) need to be given to incentivise your children to keep to the rules, but do remember to keep the rewards varied and very affordable. As the new habits are established, start easing off the rewards replacing them with more praise. Children love positive attention and are therefore more likely to repeat the behaviour for which they are praised.
All these strategies require a lot of personal effort on the parent’s side but it is well worth the investment. By creating a safe positive home environment that is predictable and stable, your children will find home life comforting, nurturing and stabilising to the extent that a solid foundation of safety has been created at home. In this way our children are being equipped to deal with anything that life throws at them, outside the home. They have a home that is safe and predictable providing a safe secure haven in which they can flourish and recover from the day’s ills. Naturally when children feel valued, listened to and praised for when they do well and loved unconditionally, they will also learn there are sensible repercussions for when they misbehave. They therefore grow up with confidence, self-esteem as well as a sense of personal responsibility for any actions they take. Anxiety has little room in their lives when they grow up safely and securely with a ‘Can Do’ attitude.
Sometimes, despite putting these very effective measures in place, a few children may still present with some anxiety concerns. We now need to look at the fact that children learn by copying. They so easily copy the behaviour of those around them. Be mindful of members in the family that are presenting with anxiety concerns, in which case it is important that the adult or family member is treated for their anxiety as indeed is the anxious child.
The preferred treatment, Bach flower therapy, which is a natural treatment, free of side effects, is totally safe for babies to take and does not interfere with any other medication, is highly effective yet gentle. There are thirty eight plant based Bach flower remedies (one for every possible emotion that needs balancing). Mimulus is likely to be the remedy of choice here to balance general known fears and anxiety. (However other emotions could be involved that require balancing. Advice can be given on request}.
Mimulus is taken over a 3 week period in drinks or directly to the mouth via a pipette as droplets. If the emotion has been longstanding then the remedy may need to be repeated two or three times with the understanding that the fears and anxiety will progressively diminish. For more information read Preparing your Bach Flower Remedies and Bach Flower Remedies
Bach flower remedies are one of nature’s greatest stress busters and I would strongly recommend these remedies find their way into everyone’s medicine cabinet. Each 30 ml stock bottle contains 80 drops and as only 2 drops are needed to take you through a 3 week treatment, each stock bottle is a very economical form of treatment. Despite ‘use by dates’ the stock bottles remain robust to the last drop for however long. Licensing laws require ‘use by dates’ so never throw out your stock bottles of Bach Flower remedies.
For advice on how to chunk down the above strategies into a meaningful do-able plan feel free to discuss how this can be done to ensure your child’s life chances to maximise life opportunities are put in place.