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Taking Charge of Childhood Anxiety
As the weeks of August wind to an end, and most parents happily buy new school supplies,
Marc’s mother, Elaine is filled with dread. The last thing she wants is a replay of last year ―the tears, tantrums and fights to get Marc to school weigh
heavy on her heart.
Marc has always been a shy child, a gentle soul who stayed close to home. As a toddler, he would cling to his parents’ legs, too shy to approach other kids in the playground ―even though he longed to join them. The only way his parents could get him to attend a birthday party was for one of them to stay with him. And then it happened: Marc became nervous about reading in class. What if he made a mistake? What if he felt nauseous?
So, on days he thought he might be asked to read, his hands shook, his heart beat so fast he felt it would jump right out of his chest and he refused to get out of the car. Sweet Marc would cry and beg. And if that didn’t work, he yelled, threatened to run away, all the while pleading to be brought back home. If his parents managed to get him into the building, oftentimes the call came later, saying he had a stomachache or refusing to stay in class. Missing school meant that he would fall behind, which caused even more trouble because nothing short of perfect was good enough… otherwise, he says, the other kids will laugh at him.
“For children who are socially anxious, learning about anxiety, practicing and rehearsing skills in a small group setting with a supportive environment is one very important step towards reclaiming their lives. DM’s groups can help.”
Poor Marc, he didn’t know that worrying when being uncertain about an out- come, learning a new skill, or moving to a new class (or job) is normal. The difference between regular worry and what’s happening to Marc is that worry was taking over his life. He didn’t realize it, but he has a lot of company. For children with social anxiety ―a fear of appearing foolish or acting in a way that would be criticized or ridiculed by others― social situations are the scariest of all. In order to prevent feeling humiliated or embarrassed, they avoid these situations at all cost.
Avoiding those situations seems to makes sense then - right? Wrong. As it turns out, avoiding what makes us anxious in the short term backfires in the long run. Because learning and growing means putting ourselves in situations where we don’t have all the skills, with practice and support we grow more confident and overcome our worry.
Elaine took action to help Marc learn how to manage his anxiety so he could have the life he deserved. At DM she learnt that a more effective strategy would be to let Marc know that worrying is normal and he should expect it. With support, she helped Marc face his fears and understand why his body behaved in such a scary way. The good news is Marc, and other kids whose lives are made smaller by anxiety, can learn it’s ok to feel uncomfortable (age appropriate), one small step at a time. Young people can learn to de- velop the confidence that comes with “I’m going to feel nervous and then it’ll be over”. We parents can be coaches , cheerleaders, and witnesses to their courage as they push past their hesitations—into all the wonderful adventures coming up in their future, called life. Contact DM for more information – Together we can make a difference!
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