Anything that happens to a child that creates stress for them or is difficult to cope with can cause anxiety. These situations may be obvious such as loss, serious illness, death of a loved one, divorce or violence and abuse can lead some children to become anxious. What is important to recognize is that the situation doesn’t necessarily have to have happened to them. Witnessing something traumatic happening to another person can have serious effects on a child and how they view the world, relationships and more.
However, it could also be smaller more ‘seemingly’ insignificant events or situations that trigger a child’s anxiety. This can have a lot to do with the degree of sensitivity of the particular child and how they respond to certain events and situations. There is no ‘one size fits all’ when understanding a child’s needs and it is vital as a parent that you are able to identify the different ‘needs’ each child has and understand their different requirements and how they see their world.
As a highly sensitive child growing up in the UK many years ago, I was labelled ‘shy’. In fact, I wasn’t shy I was extremely sensitive and consequently perceived things differently than my siblings. I would become anxious about going on visits to relatives, what I would they give me to eat? Would like it? And would I ‘get into trouble’ if I didn’t like it? I would worry about having the right shoes for school, doing my homework in just right way so I wouldn’t be singled out. I was different from others and it didn’t feel good. There were no ‘happy go lucky’ times for me unless I was squirreled away safe in my imagination and then ‘that’ would be commented on and the worry cycle of self judgement would start again.
As you can imagine I lived in a constant state of anxiety and fear. These negative emotions became my default programming. However, most of it wasn’t based on anything ‘real’ it was just the way I experienced the world from my level of sensitivity and the labels I understood myself to be.
Another factor for me and many sensitives was learning anxiety from my Mother who was also a sensitive individual. Being similar you’d think would make it easier but ‘no’ because her way of dealing with it was to ‘pretend’ it wasn’t there, thereby shutting down her emotional needs and becoming more anxious, stressed out and irritable.
Does any of this sound familiar to you? Is it possible that one of your children are highly sensitive and is picking things up differently that the others? Differently than how you see things? Many creative children are highly sensitive and, when this sensitivity isn’t recognized, is ignored or mis-labelled, anxiety becomes a natural way of being and they learn to worry about all the things that could go wrong rather than what is going right.
Here is a list of symptoms that can help you identify anxiety and sensitivity in your child.
Anger or aggression
Avoiding certain situations especially groups
Changes in appetite
Getting in trouble at school and acting out
Nervous habits such as nail-biting
Refusing to go to school
Looking on the bright side, once you have identified the behaviour pattern you can now be helpful and help to make the change it and it might be easier than you think.
Recognizing a problem is halfway to changing it, so you are already on your way. Next step is start looking for different ways you can help make that change and play therapy would be my first port of call. There are numerous games available that will give you both invaluable insights into ‘why’ your child is acting in a certain way. Unravelling that ball of string together opens up new levels of trust, a new vocabulary and creates a deeper level of understanding between you and your child. When one person heals both of you heal, emotional intelligence is established, and anxiety can become an emotion of the past.