When our young school-age kids worry, we parents worry, too. Some are scared to get on the bus, some have a terrible time falling asleep and others might hit themselves in the head when their homework stumps them. In our fast-paced world, anxiety relentlessly attacks whoever it wants to.
Enter this great expert: Allison Edwards
, LPC, has been working with anxious adults and their offspring for many years. As a registered play therapist who has seen hundreds of clients, she decided to put all of her hard-won tips and information into the new book, Why Smart Kids Worry.
One of her tips is to help the child label her anxiety. If she can’t sleep, say that Sleepless Sally is visiting again. Talk about it, and kick Sally to the curb. The crazier and sillier the name, the better. That helps the child diffuse her feelings and recognize when they’re present and when they’re gone. Need a few more tips? Read my Q&A with Allison below.
KK: Why do smart kids worry?
AE: Smart kids worry because their minds take them places they aren’t ready to go emotionally. They worry about going to college in third grade and about dying in kindergarten because they know these events will eventually happen. Intellectually they can understand these events, but emotionally they can’t process them, thus they worry.
KK: How early does anxiety start with kids?
AE: Anxiety can start as early as three-years-old. Some parents describe having a fussy, impatient, hard-to-soothe child that has always been difficult. These parents generally see anxiety a lot earlier. Other parents describe having a happy-go-lucky child until around 7 or 8 when their child suddenly becomes worried. These parents are more caught off guard because they see a such a sudden change in behavior in their child.
KK: How do you know if your preschooler/early elementary kid is becoming a worrier? Are there warning signs?
AE: You know your child is becoming a worrier if he/she talks about worries on a consistent basis. You may also notice your child becoming more distant, clingy or irritable which may also be signs that your child is worrying.
KK: What are three strategies for helping an anxious child?
AE: Three strategies to help an anxious child are:
1) Don’t get caught up in your child’s anxiety. Stay objective and supportive without getting wrapped up in what your child is worrying about. The calmer you can be, the calmer your child will become.
2) Have your own tools. It’s not enough that your child knows how to calm himself down. You need your own tools to use during times when your child’s anxiety is heightened.
3) Track your child’s anxiety. Take 30 seconds each day to record how anxious your child seemed throughout the day. Using a scale of 1 to 10, write down your child’s level of anxiety and then use the information to reflect on the past days, weeks and months. This will give you a better idea of what triggers your child’s anxiety and how long it generally lasts.
KK: What inspired you to write this book?
AE: I wrote this book because I struggled with anxiety as a child. I spent the majority of my childhood worrying about things like death, natural disasters, terminal diseases and what I was going to be when I grew up. When I became a child therapist, I found that the kids I was working with worried about the same things. When I couldn’t find any resources that addressed the topic directly, I compiled the information and tools that I had discovered and made it into Why Smart Kids Worry.