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Helping Your Child with Anxiety Disorder

For some kids, minor worries turn into full-fledged anxiety disorder. But with the right approach, you can help your child feel reassured.

All kids get stressed sometimes. They’ll have butterflies leading up to the first day of school or worry about being left out if their BFF plays with someone else at recess. Most kids will complain, maybe cry a little, and then move on. But for the estimated one in five kids in the United States who suffer from anxiety disorders (including separation anxiety, social anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder), it’s a major challenge to manage their worries. In severe cases, kids with anxiety may stop eating, sleeping, or going to school. At the very least, their instability can set them apart from their peers, often at an age when fitting in is crucial.

The following tips can help reduce your child’s anxiety:

Routines and Structure

Establish consistent daily routines and structure. Routines reduce anxiety and regular daily patterns emphasize predictability. A regular routine will give a sense of control to both parent and child. Anxious children do not cope well with a disorganized, spontaneous family life style.

Take care of the basic needs of your child, especially to prevent fatigue and hunger. Establish a regular bedtime routine consisting of quieter activities (e.g. bath, reading with parent, talking with parent), which helps your child to gradually relax.

Provide opportunities for exercise. Exercise is helpful in relieving stress and helping your child’s body to relax.

It is important for children to have limits set and consequences for breaking the limits. Children feel secure when there are limits setting restrictions on inappropriate behaviors.

Help Children Identify Feelings

Help your child notice different feelings by naming various feelings she or others may experience. Explain how people show their feelings (through faces, bodies, words) and that showing your feelings is an important way for others to understand how you are feeling. Help your child notice how different feelings “feel” in his own body, for example tight hands, butterflies in stomach, etc.

Provide Opportunities for Communicating About and Feelings

It is helpful for children to talk about their feelings, however talking about feelings is not easy for children, especially when they are asked directly. It is important for parents to watch and listen carefully for the times when a child does express feelings, either directly through words or indirectly through behaviors. At these times, you can help your child by acknowledging and accepting her feelings through simply reflecting them back to her and refraining from providing advice or asking questions. When a child’s feelings are criticized, disapproved of, or not accepted by a parent, his internal sense of self is weakened.

Respect Your Child’s Fears

Children are generally not helped when parents tell them to stop being afraid of something. What is helpful to most children is an approach in which you acknowledge their fears and at the same time let them know that you will help them overcome these fears.

Teach Relaxation Skills

Learning relaxation skills will help children feel better when they are anxious, worried or scared. It will also help them learn that they have some control over their own bodies rather than being controlled by their anxiety.

One way to help your child relax is to encourage slow, deep breathing. You can help your child practice this by getting her to imagine slowly blowing bubbles. Another way to relax is to ask her to alternately tense and relax her muscles. Additionally, some of the soothing and comforting strategies outlined above work very well to relax children.

You can also help your child use his imagination to relax. Help your child to imagine a safe and relaxing place and to notice the good relaxing feelings in his body. Or, have him imagine a container (such as a big box) to put his worries in so they are not running wild in his mind and bothering him when he needs or wants to be doing other things.

Encourage “Feeling Good” Activities:

When children are anxious, encourage them to engage in activities they enjoy such as playing with a favourite toy, doing a fun art or craft activity, doing something active outside, playing a game, reading a book, or playing with friends. Children will often need the assistance and attention of their parents to engage in these fun activities if they are anxious.

Challenge Unhelpful Thoughts

Help your child to understand that the negative and pessimistic things she says to herself about herself are not helpful and can influence how she feels and behaves. For example, thinking (or saying), “I’m so hopeless, I’ll never do it,” can make her feel angry, hopeless, sad and ultimately even more anxious.

By changing the unhelpful thoughts with more helpful and positive thoughts, for example by saying or thinking, “If I keep practicing, I’ll get better,” or “Even if I make a mistake, I can learn and do better the next time,” your child’s anxiety levels will be reduced.

Again, remember to allow your child lots of time to express her negative thoughts around worries and fears first before helping her to figure out more helpful ways of thinking about the situation. If you are still struggling to help your child, our expert team for childrens anxiety treatment can assist. Contact us today to book a consultation.

Ways Cats Are Great Therapy for Anxiety or Depression in Children

In many cases, depression in children stems from underlying anxiety issues. In fact, 1 out of 8 children in America will be affected by anxiety disorders to some degree.

Many studies have shown that cats (or dogs!) can reduce the symptoms of depression in children, making it easier for children and adults alike to overcome daily challenges. If you have the joy of sharing your home with a feline friend, you know they make great companions and unknowingly offer their relentless therapeutic care for us.

1. Unconditional friendship

Cats just love. They don’t ask for anything in return or judge us. For a child that can be struggling with anxiety due to complicated social situations in school with friends, coming home to a loving cat can be the best remedy.

2. Distraction

If one of your childs depression symptoms or anxiety is excessive worrying, it can be difficult to turn off those thoughts. Playing with a playful kitten is a great way to distract ones mind, and is definitely a mood-booster!

3. Responsibility and routine

Anxiety often leaves us feeling out of control, so a sense of routine and responsbility that comes with caring for a cat can provide a child with a purpose. The daily tasks required for a cat are perfect for a child to handle, such as feeding twice a day, scooping the litter box, grooming, and just making sure they get love and attention! This new role your child has can help give them a little direction towards not feeling depressed or anxious.

4. Social comfort

If an anxious or depressed child is having trouble socializing with others, a cat is a great way to nudge them into more social situations. Often times if another child sees a pet, they are intrigued and excited. Since the child is already comfortable with their cat, they may feel more confident when playing together with their pet and a new friend.

5. Physical contact and touch

Physical touch is healing for everyone. Sometimes children with anxiety or depression require extra reassurance and hugs. As parents or caregivers, we can certainly provide this, but the touch and acceptance of a furry friend is extra-healing. This is why it’s important that your child interact with a cat who enjoys being held.

Does your family have a pet that provides therapeutic relief to your children? Share in the comments below how your furry friend brings your kids happiness in times of struggle!

If your child is struggling with anxiety or depression, Delray Beach childrens therapy can provide them with the additional care they may need to overcome it. Contact us today to set up an appointment!

symptoms-of-depression-in-children-delray-beach

Symptoms of Depression in Children

Though uncommon and affecting only about 2% of kids, depression in children does occur and should not be overlooked.

Childhood depression is not just occasional sadness, but rather symptoms that last for weeks, months, or even years if no treatment is received.

Additional symptoms of childhood depression include:

  • Irritability or anger.
  • Continuous feelings of sadness and hopelessness.
  • Social withdrawal.
  • Increased sensitivity to rejection.
  • Changes in appetite — either increased or decreased.
  • Changes in sleep — sleeplessness or excessive sleep.
  • Vocal outbursts or crying.

If you think your child is struggling with depression, our expert team of childrens therapy in Delray Beach is able to assist your family. Contact us today to set up your initial appointment with one of our caring doctors.

Parenting: Helping a Child Cope with Disaster -Childrens Anxiety Treatment

parents helping a childChildrens Anxiety Treatment & Therapy to Assist with Disaster Coping

In these troubled times, the likelihood of some kind of disaster happening to or around us is always a possibility.  Helping a child deal with the effects of witnessing a natural, or unnatural disaster is something that no parents plans on doing. Disasters can be very frightening for adults and are even more so for children who are not necessarily mentally equipped to handle some of the stress that comes with it.  During a serious disaster, a child could see his or her home destroyed, lose all of his or her possessions, be hurt or see others hurt, as well as witness destruction and even death.  All of these things can cause a child to be extremely fearful and frightened after the disaster has occurred.  Childrens anxiety treatment or therapy may be necessary for them in order to understand and regain their childhood.
A child who has been through a disasters is very likely to:

  • Fear that the disaster will reoccur
  • Fear being separated from loved ones
  • Fear being left alone
  • Fear that someone her or she lives will be hurt or will die

Part of the way your child will choose to act after a disaster is related to his or her current developmental stage.  Preschool aged children are likely to be excessively clingy and have nighttime fears and not want to go to bed.  They may change their normal behavior patterns. If they are usually docile or shy, they may become loud and aggressive or vice versa.  Older children in the preadolescent range may experience some of the same effects that younger children do, but that may also have angry outburst or complain of different kinds of physical ailments.  They may withdraw from their friends and have problems concentrating or paying attention.  They may begin to compete for your attention and revert to some child-like behaviors.  Adolescents are more likely to have reactions similar to adults but they will also likely show some of the symptoms similar to the other mentioned age groups.

 

Here are some keys to helping a child and the rest of your family make it through a disaster experience:

Communicate

Communicate openly and honestly with your child.  Let him or her know that this disaster was no one’s fault and there was nothing to be done about it.  Help him or her to understand that sometimes things happen, but he or she is safe or will be safe soon.

Communicate about the disaster

Your first instinct is likely to not talk about the event because you do not want to upset your child more, but talking about it is actually healthier than ignoring it.  Not talking about it may make the recovery harder than it would be otherwise.

Find some stability

Children are the most comfortable when they have a routine to follow and know what is expected of them all the time. Try to establish and maintain as normal of a routine as possible.

Modify your expectations

You and your family are going to need some time to grieve about your situation.  You are all going to need time to heal. While it is best for your child to continue to follow family rules and behavior standards, know that he or she is going to be testing some limits and making some new “normals”.

Limit disaster news

While talking about the disaster as a family is helpful, letting your child be steeped in disaster news coverage can make his or her fears a little worse.  News coverage tends to be sensational and focus on the other bad news associated with the disaster.  These kinds of things may cause your child to relive some of his or her experience which is not going to be helpful.

Get them involved

Finding some age appropriate chores or tasks for your child will help him or her feel involved and useful.  If our child can help your family recover, his or her fears may be a bit assuaged.

You Must Let Your Child’s Emotions Run Their Course

It is completely natural for children to have some very real fears after they have experienced a disaster.  But, as a parent, you can help your child work through and manage these fears so that your child will not experience any longer term development difficulties.  It may seem like too much to ask when you are also dealing with the effects of a disaster, but using a little extra understanding and a little extra patience and time with your child will be a great help to him or her.  If being able to do this for your child seems like too much right now, get him or her into counseling immediately.  The longer your wait, the further his or her development could be effected.

If you still find your child is struggling with the effects of witnessing a disaster or traumatic event, Dr Rodrigues and Delray Beach Psychiatrist offers effective childrens therapy and childrens anxiety treatment for helping your child regain their life.

Contact us today to set up your consultation with our expert team.