The Many Faces Of Anxiety
“Mummy I hate it here at Grandpa’s. I just want to go home.” (Tears, screaming and throwing things)
Two hours later.
“I don’t want to gohome, I want to stay here at Grandpa’s.” (Happy, content, calm)
Ah children, expert bogglers of our minds, ever present in their own experience and feelings.
What does this have to do with anxiety?
Well, I want you to imagine what comes to mind when you think about an anxious person?
Do you picture shaking, crying, clinging and showing other obvious signs of terror?
It can look like this, but anxiety often manifests in different ways which may not seem so obvious.
Do any of these sound familiar?
- Defiance – Refuses to do things even if capable. Appears deliberately uncooperative just to push your buttons.
- Anger and aggression – Angers easily, may lash out verbally or physically. Appears to be in a constant bad mood.
- Wanting distraction and whining – Irritable and commonly ask for sweet foods, screens or constant attention. May be labelled as fussy, too sensitive or impossible to please.
- Hyperactive – Unable to focus and concentrate even on things they might usually enjoy.
- Sleep problems – Trouble falling asleep or frequent waking. Too much or too little sleep. Appears tired all the time.
- Perfectionism – Tries to behave perfectly all the time, wants to please everyone. Very upset about failure or disappointing people.
- Physical illness – Headaches and stomach aches, also sometimes more severe physical symptoms.
- Avoidance – Say they don’t want to go somewhere or do something they enjoy. Unwilling to try new things.
- Meltdowns – Crying or tantrums over little things like the colour of a cup or the wrong socks. Unable to be soothed even if requests are met.
- Clinging – Being labelled as “shy” or “slow to warm up”. Unable to separate from a caregiver even in a familiar and safe environment.
But wait, aren’t these normal childhood behaviours that all children experience at times?
But if any of them feature strongly in your child’s life, or are becoming more frequent and intense, then you may want to consider anxiety as a possible cause.
Even so, these behaviours can be confusing and frustrating for parents. You may assume that your kids are just being manipulative, lazy or disobedient. Onlookers might judge our children as being spoiled or undisciplined. Many people do not understand that anxiety can be the driver behind these baffling moments.
Am I saying that it’s ok for your kids to behave in these ways if the underlying cause is anxiety?
Not at all.
I’m suggesting that you look a little deeper and see whether you can recognise and understand what’s behind your child’s negative attitudes and reactions. While it’s always important to listen to our children, when they are anxious they can be very irrational and you, as the parent, must not take their words or actions to heart and get caught up in their emotional storm.
If you can remember that your child is hurting, and not actually trying to make your life miserable, it can make it much easier to remain calm in the face of these challenging moments. Then you can make clear choices about how best to help without getting swept away with them.
At Launchpad house, we understand that the first step to changing our behaviour is to recognise the WHY behind those behaviours. We guide our students to look within so that they can gain this deep understanding of themselves which will help them in every aspect of their lives.
Now I’d love your thoughts.
Have you seen any of the above behaviours from your anxious child? Is it a new concept to you that these behaviours may be the result of anxiety? Please send me your comments and questions and come back next week to learn more.