Emily Vujicic, Psychologist
A life without worry is a dangerous thing. It would mean a lack of concern for consequences of our actions, a reduction in reflective thinking and a reduced drive to get things done by a deadline. It would mean we would step out in front of the busy road, or test if the iron is hot by using our finger.
Worry has been a safety mechanism for us throughout the evolutionary process, and has help ensure our survival. The point being, that a little bit of worry is a good thing.
The other end of the scale is a debilitating experience when we cannot think of anything but mistakes we have made or have a fear of the future that is enough to make us physically sick and interrupt our lives.
So how do we know when to worry about worry? How much is enough? And how to help foster a sense of safety without taking away our children’s ability to experience worry and instead learn to cope with it?
High anxiety can occur in approximately 1 in 10 young people, and the chances of being anxious increase significantly if they are already dealing with an ASD or ADHD diagnosis, or a learning disorder.
If compared to other children you see that your child gets worried more often, and more intensely than others, and things have persisted for some time, then it might be time to get some professional support.
Other signs to look out for include irritability, avoidance of things they might have previously enjoyed, physical complaints like a sore tummy, or comments like things being ‘boring’ or ‘stupid’, when they may in fact be difficult and your child is feeling afraid. Not wanting to go to school or see friends can be a red flag for a child experiencing anxiety.
As a parent, there are some things you can do at home to help foster a sense of resilience to things that may be worrying and help your child cope with those feelings.
Some possible ways include:
The relationship building that you do with your child will ultimately underpin these strategies. Being able to give them the confidence to believe what you say, to confide in you, and to give them the feeling of independence and competence to take on the world.
Don’t minimise the positive interactions that you have together in the big jigsaw puzzle of your child’s world. Plant the seeds of the relationship when they are 5, so they know when they are 15, that you are cheering them on.