Here's what you need to know to make a great choice for your teen.
If your teen is struggling, you want to fix whatever’s wrong and try to help. And maybe they need help, but chances are, they’re going to talk to someone else before they talk to you. Right? Well, if they need to talk and they won’t talk to you, you’ll want to do everything in your power to find someone who will lead them in the right direction and encourage them to make good choices. That’s why finding a counselor for your teen just may be the answer you’re looking for.
A counselor can be a great resource to help your teen manage any number of issues they may be dealing with. But the process doesn’t have to be overwhelming.
Think about this: finding a counselor is a lot like interviewing folks to fill a job position. When hiring someone, you want to find the right fit.
It’s the same with choosing a counselor for your teen. You wouldn’t want to hire the first person to walk into a job interview. It’s the same with choosing a counselor; it’s wise to “shop around” and find the best fit for your teen.
But how do you go about doing that?
Here are some helpful tips for finding a counselor for your teen:
Do a search.
Finding a counselor in your area can be as easy as an internet search. But be sure to look at reviews. Check over their website, and ask around about counselors you may be interested in.
Don’t underestimate the power of a good recommendation. Ask people you know who have used counselors. Therapists often specialize in adults and adolescents, so don’t discount the ones adult friends have seen.
Pay attention to the credentials.
You wouldn’t want to hire a person without the right qualifications, and it’s the same with choosing a counselor. Except this is your teen who needs help. Here’s a simple breakdown of what counselor credentials look like:
Counselors are either licensed or unlicensed by the state where they practice. Licensed counselors have initials after their names, like LPC, LPCC, LCPC, or LMHC. They hold a master’s degree or higher, have completed a certain number of supervised training hours, and have passed a licensure exam. Ideally, you should seek out a licensed counselor.
Some unlicensed counselors are working toward either their advanced counseling degree or licensure. They usually offer cheaper rates and must disclose the status of their services. Because they work under the direct supervision of experienced therapists, these counselors can also be very helpful.
Some counselors are psychiatrists (PsyD or MD). This means they hold a medical doctorate, can diagnose mental illnesses, and can prescribe medication.
Some people advertise themselves as counselors but are not licensed. These professionals may or may not hold advanced degrees in areas of counseling or psychology. When seeking the services of unlicensed counselors, it’s wise to use caution.
Ask a potential counselor questions before the first session.
Consider questions such as:
Do you specialize in child and adolescent therapy?
How long have you been in practice? Are you licensed by the state? Is your license current?
What issues do you specialize in? (Counselors will typically specialize in depression, LGBQT+ issues, addiction, or other issues that may pertain to your teen’s situation. These are usually spelled out on their website if they have one. Be sure to ask if you don’t see an issue that pertains to your teen.)
What kind of approach do you use with your teen clients? (Most counselors have theoretic approaches they use, but don’t let the psycho-babble throw you off. Get a sense of how the counselor relates to their clients in a way that’s understandable to you.)
Consider the financial aspect.
Check to see whether a counselor accepts insurance and, if so, whether they are in-network. Some counselors base client fees on household incomes (called a sliding scale). Fee payment schedules can also vary from counselor to counselor. Some require payment at the time of each session, while others allow a certain number of sessions to go by. Be sure to ask about how the counselor handles their client fees. I understand that many parents don’t plan for the expense of counseling, but it’s well worth the investment. Mental health is that important.
Ask what to expect with confidentiality.
If a counselor chooses to conduct sessions privately with your teen, ask how they handle confidentiality. Don’t assume the counselor will share everything your teen says in the counseling room. Counselors work under the state laws and codes of ethics that direct them as to how to handle client confidentiality. Ask the counselor about this before the first session so you will know what to expect.
As a parent, your teen’s mental health is a top priority. And you want their counselor to be effective. Good counselors are out there; it takes a little digging to figure out who can best be helpful. If you feel there’s no connection between the counselor and your teen after a few sessions, keep looking for a counselor who will be a better fit. Your teen will be more open and make better progress if they feel comfortable with their counselor. It’s worth it!
*If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, there are a number of websites and organizations with excellent resources for you. HelpGuide is a great place to start, along with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention at 988 or 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/Untitled-7-01.png5001200Chris Ownbyhttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngChris Ownby2021-08-03 14:01:332022-07-25 13:41:42How To Find a Counselor for Your Teen
My wife and I have been together since high school, and she was just offered a new position at work. Yay!! We’re so excited. But there was only one catch: the offer required that she take and pass a standardized test. Three things trigger her anxiety more than anything else: doctors, spiders, and tests. When any of these three is a possibility, she can’t sleep and loses her appetite. We’ve always known this was an issue for her, but we work through it. One step at a time.
Her anxiety before these events made me curious. Is this normal or is it a sign of something more? Is she ok? I mean, I get anxious about some things, but not to that extent. So, I did a little digging. In the process, I came across some interesting articles and research regarding something called “anticipatory anxiety.”
What is anticipatory anxiety?
It sounds clinical, but anticipatory anxiety comes from fear or worries about things that could happen — situations, events, or experiences that may lie ahead. It can stem from past experiences, but it doesn’t always. My wife’s anxiety with tests or spiders doesn’t stem from past trauma. The anxiety with doctors? Now that’s a different story.
Some symptoms may include things like hyperventilating, chest pain, difficulty concentrating and feeling apprehensive. It can also show up as sleep issues, loss of appetite, emotional numbness, and trouble managing emotions.
Aren’t we all a little anxious about the future?
Sure! It’s normal for all of us to feel anxious about the future from time to time. Tests, moving, big trips, new jobs, and major medical procedures are just a few examples of things that cause anxiety. It’s not unusual to worry over these things, but there’s a BIG difference between being worried and having anticipatory anxiety.
Let’s take a look at some differences. A 2015 study looked at “phasic fear”(fear that precedes a threat you can predict) and anticipatory anxiety. Phasic fear lasts for a short time. On the other hand, anticipatory anxiety lasts longer and is a reaction to an unpredictable threat. Each fear activates different parts of the brain. The researchers found that we all experience different levels of anticipatory anxiety. BUT if a person suffers from an anxiety disorder, anticipatory anxiety can go well beyond what most people experience. Anticipatory anxiety can be life-limiting for those who suffer from panic disorder, PTSD, or a phobia.
An American Psychological Association survey in March 2021 found that 50% of participants reported anxiety in the current reentry phase of the pandemic. We’re probably all a little anxious right now as the world reopens and kids return to school (in some areas of the country for the first time since March 2020). We might even worry about a COVID recurrence or future pandemics.
So, how do we cope with anticipatory anxiety?
Anticipatory anxiety can put stress on personal relationships because you’re distracted by what-ifs. It can be life-limiting as you try to avoid things you’re afraid of. But you can cope with anticipatory anxiety and work to overcome it.
We can also help others cope by paying attention to their actions and emotions. Maybe you have a loved one with anticipatory anxiety. If so, you can encourage them to use the coping mechanisms listed below. A strong support system that offers love, grace, and encouragement can make a world of difference.
Here are some methods to help you cope:
Practicing a relaxation response: Deep breathing, guided imagery, or meditation are a few examples. Find something that calms you.
Self-talk: Talk to yourself like you would talk to a friend who’s having a similar experience. Self-compassion can make you more mindful. It can also motivate you to recognize and face your fears.
Healthy distractions: Take a walk, listen to music, engage in your favorite hobby, or exercise.
Challenge your anxious thoughts: Ask yourself if you’re being realistic. If you aren’t, challenge those thoughts with realistic ones.
Take action: Sometimes, the best solution is to confront whatever makes you anxious. This may mean taking small steps toward conquering your fears. You don’t have to tackle it all at once.
So, my wife faced her test anxiety. She studied diligently. The kids and I cheered her on and offered words of support and encouragement. We created an environment at home to lessen her anxiety as the time to take her test got closer. And she passed her test. With that, the fear is gone… until the next test. But, when it comes to spiders, we’ve got a long road ahead. [Read How To Help Your Spouse Deal With Anxiety]
Overcoming anticipatory anxiety takes work. But, reining in your fears will be helpful for you and your family. If you think your anticipatory anxiety could be a sign of something more, consult with a therapist or counselor for guidance.
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/Untitled-2-01-3.png5001200Mitchell Quallshttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngMitchell Qualls2021-07-30 12:10:142021-08-11 00:20:59What You Need to Know About Anticipatory Anxiety
Teens experienced a lot of stress during the first round of the COVID-19 pandemic. They switched to virtual learning. They were isolated from friends. Sports got canceled. Celebrations were delayed or just didn’t happen. All these things had a significant impact.1 We thought it would all be over by now. And it looks like it is all on the verge of happening again. And it looks like it is all on the verge of happening again.
After COVID seemed to come to an end, many teens started experiencing symptoms of what scientists and doctors are calling “post-pandemic anxiety syndrome.” Yep, it’s a thing.
This syndrome is marked by an overwhelming sense of worry during this post-pandemic/repeat period. For some, the anxiety may stem from a lingering uncertainty about safety. Is the virus still a threat? Are we sure I can take this mask off? Am I still in danger? Should I put the mask back on?
For others, the cause of anxiety seems to be a product of flip-flop thinking. We know that our brains can train themselves to think in a certain way.2 Your teen has had over a year to adjust to new and sudden precautions, rules of social distancing, and risk management during extreme uncertainty.
As if that’s not stressful enough, now we’re experiencing an almost equally instantaneous shift back to pre-pandemic life while there’s so much uncertainty about the variants. Take off the masks, go back to the ball fields, get ready for school. Some teens are celebrating. But for many, the anxiety increases.3
If your teen is showing some signs of post-pandemic anxiety, you can help them. Try these strategies to help them deal with what they may be experiencing.
Be open to your teen voicing their worries, fears, and stress to you. Let them know you’re a safe place for them to express their thoughts and feelings without judgment. Avoid pushing the issue if they don’t want to share, but keep that open door in their sights. If they know you are in their corner, it makes a difference.
2. Normalize their feelings.
Your teen may feel weird or abnormal because of their anxiety. They might think that no one could possibly understand what they’re feeling. Reassure them that our whole world has been through a lot, and those anxious feelings are normal. There’s nothing wrong with them; they’re not “less than” because of their worry. Remind them that it’s how we go about coping with anxiety that is important.
3. Coach them to get plenty of sleep.
In general, teens typically get less sleep than they need for proper health and development. But a healthy amount of rest is vital for coping with anxiety. Evidence is strong that sleep deprivation negatively affects mental health.4 The CDC recommends 13 to 18-year-olds should get 8-10 hours of sleep a night for optimal health.5 Encourage your teen to hit the hay at a decent hour so they can take care of themselves.
4. Avoid making your own diagnosis.
You’re worried about your kid, and that’s completely understandable. You can see signs and symptoms of anxiety or stress. But professionals are trained to translate these signs into what precisely the problem is — not us. You want to be careful not to jump to “anxiety disorders,” “depression,” or other conditions in a knee-jerk reaction, especially to your teen. They can easily feel labeled. They may also interpret the label as an identity that can’t be fixed (e.g., I have an anxiety disorder; it’s who I am). This is obviously detrimental to how they feel about themselves, and it can magnify the troublesome feelings they are having.
5. Consider getting help from a professional counselor.
If the signs you see are persistent or worsen, it might indicate that you need to seek a therapist for your teen. Keep in mind that it might not be a popular choice in your teen’s eyes. But often, intense feelings of anxiety and worry are so much that we need more advanced tools to cope with them. That’s where a counselor is beneficial.
One last thought from one parent of a teen to another:
There is always hope in conquering mental health challenges. Anxiety is manageable. And your teen stands the greatest chance of overcoming post-pandemic anxiety when they know you’re cheering them on.
3Hunter, R. G., & McEwen, B. S. (2013). Stress and anxiety across the lifespan: structural plasticity and epigenetic regulation. Epigenomics, 5(2), 177–194. https://doi.org/10.2217/epi.13.8
4Talbot, L. S., McGlinchey, E. L., Kaplan, K. A., Dahl, R. E., & Harvey, A. G. (2010). Sleep Deprivation in Adolescents and Adults: Changes in Affect. Emotion (Washington, D.C.), 10(6), 831–841. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0020138
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/Untitled-1-01-1.png5001200Chris Ownbyhttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngChris Ownby2021-07-14 12:37:522021-08-11 12:04:55Five Strategies to Help Your Teen Deal with Post-Pandemic Anxiety
Demonstrate your love, compassion, and care while walking them through their challenges.
Children, like adults, were struck with a sudden bombshell when COVID-19 arrived on the scene. Everything changed abruptly. Think about it. One day, they’re at school and seeing their friends. The next day, they’re home for an extended period. They’re isolated. Their world changed: masks, loneliness, increased family time, canceled activities, etc. The structure, predictability, and consistency kids need to thrive: gone. That’s a tough experience for a child to live through. It was even hard for adults.
As kids come out of the pandemic, it’s no wonder that so many are experiencing anxiety. Recent studies suggest the pandemic may be having a more adverse effect on adolescents than on adults.1 According to Dr. Bradley S. Jerson,2 your child may be dealing with post-pandemic anxiety if they are…
Spending a lot more time alone
Sleeping a lot more or less
Withdrawing from family or friends
Not interested in their favorite activities
Having changes in their overall mood
More irritated or angry
Stuck on negative thoughts
Hopeless about the future
As their parent, you want to help them manage their anxiety and adjust to normalcy.
These strategies can help your child deal with post-pandemic anxiety.
2. Give your child space and freedom to talk through their emotions.
What young child can do that by themselves? Not many. Try to ask questions in a gentle, non-judgmental way. Try, “What do you feel when we make plans to go to the supermarket or back to school?” This lets them know that whatever they’re feeling is acceptable and even normal. Studies show that after an event like a pandemic, mental health issues such as anxiety are common.4 Child expert Dr. Gene Beresin recommends that parents consistently listen and validate their child’s thoughts and emotions. This can help them transition to post-pandemic life.5
3. Create some routines, predictability, and consistency.
Children thrive when they know what’s coming. And it helps them adjust and know who to turn to for the things they can’t foresee. Morning or nighttime routines are helpful. Picking them up from school at a consistent time is also good. Several studies have shown that eating family meals together is beneficial for kids’ mental state.
4. Ease them back into their norms when possible .
Dr. Jill Ehrenreich-May and Dominique A. Phillips recommend taking smaller, manageable steps to move forward.6 Instead of going to an indoor birthday party, have your child choose a friend for an outdoor play date. Pick people and places that are most comfortable for your child, and use those spaces to help them overcome the paralyzing effects of their post-pandemic anxiety.
5. Talk them through what’s being done to keep them safe.
Young children look to their parents for security, safety, and protection. Asking your child what would make them feel safe can help them address their anxiety. Explaining what makes a situation safe helps build their trust in you as their parent to protect them.
6. Get support for your child.
If your child continues to struggle, talk to their pediatrician, a school counselor, or find a therapist. Don’t hesitate to ask your child if they’ve had thoughts of self-harm. **If they have, call or text the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 988 or 1-800-273-8255 (24/7).**
7. Celebrate the positives.
Dr. Jerry Bubrick, a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute, encourages parents to look for anything positive they can celebrate.7 Sometimes, we spend so much time focusing on what our kids won’t do. Instead, highlight the good stuff they’re doing: the family time you’re spending together, the books they’re reading. This can help shift their mentality and calm their uneasiness.
Each child responds differently to change. Your love, compassion, and care in walking them through their challenges are often the most crucial ingredients to helping your child deal with change, fear, uncertainty, and post-pandemic anxiety. You got this!
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/Untitled-1-01.png5001200Reggie Madisonhttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngReggie Madison2021-07-12 13:00:332022-07-25 13:41:067 Strategies to Help Your Child Deal With Post-Pandemic Anxiety
Here are two important things you can do right now.
Let me state the obvious and say it’s been a rough year or so. With the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, reality has come the closest it’s ever been to a sci-fi novel. And it’s literally messed with our heads. Society as a whole experienced a significant uptick in relationship and mental health issues.
And let me just speak for us all when I say thank goodness we seem to be on the downswing of it all. (Of course, we’re not entirely over the hill — many are still dealing with health concerns.)
Despite this downswing, fear and anxiety are still lingering in the air. Many are experiencing what scientists call “post-pandemic anxiety syndrome.” It’s a condition marked by continual worry about re-entering life in the post-pandemic era.
Signs1 of this syndrome tend to mimic other mental health issues like anxiety and post-traumatic stress syndrome. They include:
Difficulty returning to a full engagement with society
Avoiding work or social interactions
Constantly checking symptoms despite not being in a high-risk scenario
Perceived threats that aren’t necessarily there
Some of these symptoms are pretty normal after a global pandemic. Most of us experienced at least one of these at some time or another. But for those who cope in a healthy way, these signs should gradually taper off.
However, symptoms that persist or get worse might indicate a bigger problem.
So how do you help your spouse with post-pandemic anxiety?
There are two important things you can do right now.
1. Exercise a great deal of empathy and understanding.
You may not have the same anxiety your spouse does. You may even wonder what all the fuss is about. But it will help if you understand that’s not their reality.
Consider this: We now know that our brain can train itself to think toward a certain way over time.2
We’ve had over a year for our brains to adjust to new and sudden precautions, rules of social distancing, and risk management during extreme uncertainty. That’s stressful.
And now, we’re experiencing an almost equally instantaneous shift back to pre-pandemic life. For many, that’s stressmultiplied.
Knowing this, put yourself in your partner’s shoes. Let him or her know you’re there, walking with them through this. Allow them to vent and share feelings, no matter how irrational it sounds to you.
Anxiety isn’t something that can just be quickly “fixed.” It’s a process that takes time. So you’ll have to be patient.
2. Encourage your spouse to seek out a professional counselor that works well with them.
A counselor can provide useful coping tools and help your spouse monitor their progress. It may even be a good idea to attend counseling together because anxiety affects your marriage3,4. You may also need to learn new skills to support your spouse. Couples therapy is very effective for treating a variety of mental health issues, including anxiety5.
Your number one goal in marriage is to show unconditional love and support for your spouse, for better or worse. And that takes a great deal of understanding. You may not know the particular skills they need to cope and overcome the anxiety, and that’s okay. (That’s one reason a professional counselor is so important.) But the greatest presence they have is you. Let them know you’re on their side and you’re not going anywhere. Post-pandemic anxiety is real, and it’s scary for those going through it, but it’s no match for the support and understanding you can give your spouse.
2Hunter, R. G., & McEwen, B. S. (2013). Stress and anxiety across the lifespan: structural plasticity and epigenetic regulation. Epigenomics, 5(2), 177–194. https://doi.org/10.2217/epi.13.8
3Zaider, T. I., Heimberg, R. G., & Iida, M. (2010). Anxiety disorders and intimate relationships: a study of daily processes in couples. Journal of abnormal psychology, 119(1), 163–173. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0018473
4Darcy, K., Davila, J., & Beck, J. G. (2005). Is Social Anxiety Associated With Both Interpersonal Avoidance and Interpersonal Dependence? Cognitive Therapy and Research, 29(2), 171–186. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10608-005-3163-4
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/Untitled-5-01.png5001200Chris Ownbyhttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngChris Ownby2021-07-06 15:49:492021-07-16 11:44:17How to Help Your Spouse With Post-Pandemic Anxiety
It’s been one year since our lives drastically changed. Schools shifted to virtual learning, many of us were scrambling to set up home offices, and some lost their jobs. Life looks somewhat different today. But we can see the light at the end of the tunnel; there is hope.
With so many drastic changes, 2020 also saw a rise in stress, anxiety, and loneliness. The American Psychological Association reports that 78% of Americans say the coronavirus pandemic is a significant source of stress in their lives. I’m part of that group.
As anxiety and stress increase, self-care is essential, whether that’s through outdoor exercise, getting into nature, yoga, reading more, unplugging from technology, or breathing exercises. I enjoy going for a run. Being outdoors is my go-to. (In cases of extreme stress, anxiety, loneliness, or a psychological disorder, seek the help of a professional.)
If we don’t care for ourselves, we’re unable to care for others.
There are many techniques and practices to help us navigate stress.
Let me introduce you to a method that neuroscientists have found useful. You may already do this and not even realize it’s an actual practice. Enter: havening. Neuroscientist Dr. Ronald Ruden created havening techniques a decade ago. Havening uses gentle touch to the upper arms, hands and face, and constructive messaging to replace stressful responses with healthier ones.
Havening can be as simple as rubbing your hands together, on your face, or through your hair when you feel stress rising. You may do these simple acts without even realizing it. But neurologically, it helps your brain cope with stress.
You may be asking, how does this help? (I know I was).
Havening helps boost oxytocin, a “love hormone” that is typically released through human touch and bonding. Contact is something that we’ve been lacking over the past few months. The hugs, handshakes, and high-fives all help us de-stress. Havening can convince your brain that you are receiving some of this touch.
We are built for community, for relationships, and to do life with other people (in-person, not virtually). This has presented challenges for many as we balance our need to be with people and health concerns. Of course, I’m not suggesting that havening should replace personal contact and touch. But in a world where touch and close proximity is still being limited or feels uncomfortable to many, havening is a great way to calm yourself and the ones you love. It’s also helpful for those who are not comfortable being touched by others.
This technique can also be beneficial for kids, especially as anxiety has risen due to online school and the lack of time with friends. If your child has been struggling with meltdowns, anger, or anxiety due to loneliness, encourage them to pause, take a deep breath, and wrap their arms around themselves in a big bear hug. It may seem weird at first, but practicing havening can help you feel more grounded and connected.
We have learned much over these past 12 months. We’ve learned resilience, flexibility, what’s important, and that we are made for relationships. We’re made to be with other people, and our brains need that connection, along with physical touch.
As we push forward through this pandemic, continue to take care of yourself and your family. If you haven’t already, figure out what reduces your stress and brings you joy. Use havening if you feel out of control or anxious. Put self-care at the top of your to-do list. And if you take up running, I’ll see you out there.
These things can help when life seems to be out of control.
Nothing seems normal these days. Many people say, “I just keep pinching myself thinking I’ll wake up and this nightmare will be over.” Sometimes life can take a real toll on everyone – both physically and mentally. As you continue to navigate through these times, there are ways you can be intentional about protecting your family’s mental health.
For starters, it’s important to continually remind ourselves that when we’re going through something that’s very unusual, we remain in a heightened state of anxiety and stress that impacts our mental and physical health.
One thing that can help you regain your footing is to establish routines, rituals, and structure.
In times of high anxiety and stress, the consistency of routines and structure is soothing to everyone.
Make your home a peaceful place—a refuge from all the craziness going on in the world.
Spend some time thinking about things you can do to create calm. Play calming music, light a lavender candle and let the sunlight in. Encourage your children to find a comfy spot where they can read or play with their toys.
Your children are like sponges. Whether you notice it or not, they’re watching your every move, your facial expressions and even listening to your conversations that don’t include them. They’re quick to pick up and take on your stress and anxiety. Have adult conversations out of the hearing range of your children. Be proactive in dealing with your emotions.
Be open and intentional about having conversations about things that are going on in your world.
Ask your children to tell you what they know or have heard. Use their information as a platform to affirm accurate information and correct inaccurate details. Assure them that your job is to make sure they are cared for and protected and you are doing that.
Exercise, getting enough rest and eating right are three essentials for protecting your family’s mental health.
This is like the trifecta right here! Walk as a family and insist that people get the rest they need. Involve everyone in creating fun, healthy meals.
Limit the amount of time you and your family members watch the news.
This one action can dramatically decrease the anxiety, stress, anger, fear and drama in your home. Mentally and emotionally, our brains and bodies aren’t meant to live in a constant state of stress, but that’s exactly what happens when we watch news nonstop.
Think of ways you can be helpful to others.
During difficult times, it’s easy to become focused on yourself and all that’s wrong with the world. A great way to combat this as a family is to look for ways to help others. Deliver food, do yard work, run errands, bake bread or cookies and share them with your neighbors. (Let your kids do a ring and run when they deliver. It can be your secret!)
Make play a priority.
Seriously. Play releases all the feel-good hormones that promote an overall sense of well-being. Heaven knows we could all use a triple dose of that right now. Ride bikes, go for a hike, play hide and seek, tag, kick the can, four square, hopscotch, double dutch jump rope or any other active game you can think of. Just get moving!
Remind yourself and your family members – there is light at the end of the tunnel.
This is hard and there are parts of dealing with life right now that are not fun, but together as a family, you can do hard things. When one person’s having a hard day, other family members can be encouraging and affirming to help them get through it. Having healthy relationships with each other is one of the best ways to protect your family’s mental health.
When parents model and lead using these strategies, children learn how to navigate through hard times in healthy ways. It shows you believe they have what it takes to keep going even when things get really challenging. This builds self-confidence and helps them learn how to think and be creative in the midst of change.
A side note: if you feel like members of your family aren’t handling all that is going on well, don’t hesitate to seek help. Talk with their pediatrician and/or a counselor to seek guidance on other ways you can help them.
If you or someone you know is struggling and you need immediate assistance, you can find 24-hour help here:
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/pexels-elly-fairytale-4008800-3-1-e1602084544645.jpg7381400Julie Baumgardnerhttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngJulie Baumgardner2020-10-07 11:25:462022-07-25 14:02:07How to Protect Your Family’s Mental Health
Help guide kids through worry and fear with these easy suggestions.
As a parent, it never ceases to amaze me that I feel a piece of the hurt that my child experiences—whether it be a skinned knee, a disappointment, or hurt feelings. I’m sure you feel the same way. And unfortunately, anxiety does not discriminate by age. Helping your 8- to 12-year-old child through anxiety is no piece of cake. Many parents are left in the dark as to how to nurture their child through worry, fear, and panic.
When your tween-ager becomes anxious, how do you help them handle their anxiety?
Worries and fears are normal for kids, whether it’s being nervous about an upcoming test, a friendship, or feeling uncertainty over a move to a new house. These feelings typically work themselves out in a short amount of time, and life moves on. However, anxiety can become problematic in tweens when it persists and interferes with everyday life.
Not all kids experience anxiety the same way, and the source of one kid’s anxiety might be different from another’s. According to the National Health Service of the UK, some children simply have a hard time with change, such as attending a different school or moving to a new town. Distressing or traumatic experiences such as a house fire, change in family structure, or the death of someone close to them can certainly spark anxiety. Also, family conflict and arguments can heighten anxiety in children, especially if they experience it often.
Constant worry, negative thoughts, the nagging thought that bad things are going to happen.
Trouble sleeping at night.
Headaches or stomach aches.
Feeling tense or fidgety.
Trouble concentrating on schoolwork or other tasks.
Avoidance of social gatherings or everyday activities.
Lack of confidence to try new things.
Keep in mind that many of these symptoms can be normal in 8- to 12-year-olds from time to time; all kids have a nightmare or show some fidgetiness now and then. However, if you see these symptoms crop up repeatedly, this may be an indication that your child is experiencing some anxiety and needs some help to cope.
So, what can you do as a parent to help your child during these times? Here are some steps to help your child walk through worry, fear, and anxiety.
Help your child talk through and name their feelings.
Many kids don’t know how to articulate what it is they are feeling. Putting a label on what your child is feeling gives them a certain power over their anxiety, what some psychologists call a “name it, tame it” philosophy. Tools such as the emotion wheel below can help kids choose words to describe what they’re feeling.
Another side of the “name it, tame it” idea is to help your child give a literal name to the feeling of anxiety. This helps them to call the anxiety out and put it in its place. For instance, they might say, Well, “Bruce” is showing up again, making me feel worried about this test. Bruce, you need to go away so I can get on with my class! This may feel a little “lame” to older kids, but it gives them a vocal power over their negative feelings and helps them to regulate tense emotions.
Teach them to recognize their own signs of anxiety as they begin to arise.
(Such as heart beating fast, trouble thinking straight, sweaty palms, etc.). Anxiety is usually something that shows up progressively before it reaches full tilt, sometimes described as a wave that builds up and then ebbs away. The more your child can anticipate the wave coming, the better they can head it off at the pass with some coping skills.
Teach your child some simple mindfulness and relaxation techniques for when they feel anxiety coming on.
For instance, they can take three deep breaths, inhaling through the nose on a three-count and exhaling through the mouth on a three-count. Deep breathing helps to slow a person’s heart rate and the amount of stress hormones that get squirted in the brain in a nerve-racking situation. Other very simple relaxation techniques can be found online.
Help your child talk through what can be and what can’t be controlled in a certain situation.
For example, the fact that they will be attending a new school or that they won’t know anyone the first day or so cannot be controlled. However, they can control whether they open up and get to know other students. They can control whether they ask a teacher for help with finding their way. And they can control the knowledge that they will be coming home after school and can relax better. Direct your tween to make a two-column list, spelling out what can and cannot be controlled in their situation.
Encourage your child to keep a “worry journal,” recording what it is that has them anxious and what they are feeling.
Another great version of this technique comes from Young Minds and is called the “worry box.” Kids can take a decorated box and, as they experience worry or anxiety over situations, record what they are worried about on slips of paper and put them into the box. At the end of the week, go through the slips of paper together with your child; have them determine which pieces of paper were worth worrying over (which is usually none of them), and have them tear that piece of paper up and throw it away. This is a great symbolic way of your child showing power over their anxiety.
Coach your child to eat a healthy diet and get plenty of physical activity.
(At least 60 minutes a day, according to the CDC). And be sure they get the recommended amount of sleep at night for their age. Our physical health and our mental health are connected.
Avoid “pre-purchasing” anxiety for your child.
In other words, if you are feeling anxious over a certain situation your child is facing, your child will read you and follow suit. Also, avoid persistent family arguments and unhealthy conflict in the house. An environment filled with conflict only serves to increase the anxiety your child will feel at any given time.
☆ If your child’s anxiety persists or increases despite these measures, be sure to pay a visit to their primary doctor with these concerns.
Anxiety happens, and you want your child to learn how to read their own anxiety and develop coping skills. Keep in mind that anxiety is something to be worked through. And everyone needs someone else to walk with them through it—especially children. A key concept that 8- to 12-year-olds can begin to grasp is the idea that you have the power to not let anxiety get the best of you. And kids this age can begin implementing coping tools to demonstrate that power over their anxiety.
Above all, be patient with them. Let them know you are there to walk with them without judging or shaming them for their feelings. A strong, caring relationship with your kids is the biggest weapon you can give them to build the inner strengths to handle anxiety.
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/AdobeStock_172075782-scaled-e1598303782620.jpeg205450Chris Ownbyhttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngChris Ownby2020-08-21 08:30:032021-01-07 14:49:47How to Help My Child Handle Anxiety