Anxiety is something that most people have experienced during their life at some point. Children are also faced with fears and anxiety as they grow and develop and sometimes they can be quite overwhelming.
These might be about specific places, things or events or the anxiety may be quite general in nature.
Some common signs associated with anxiety include:
– Diarrhoea or constipation
– Stomach pain and upset
– Loss of appetite
– Breathing difficulty
– Crying and clinging
– Anti-social behaviour and shyness
– Difficulty sleeping or aversion to sleep
– Night waking and night terrors
– Muscular Tension and pain
It is worth remembering that children are very open and sensitive and often pick up emotional tension and stress from other people around them. They are far more susceptible to this than adults.
If children are not yet able to communicate clearly and describe their emotions their anxiety may manifest as what you perceive as irrational or bad behaviour. As parents, its important to be conscious of the emotion that could be lying behind and causing their behaviour.
Treating children for anxiety also involves managing the stress levels of the parents. When the parents are stressed or find it challenging to express themselves, it makes it more difficult for children to have the opportunity to express their upset and to be understood. Caring for your own stress and anxiety is the first step towards helping your child deal with their anxiety and it will enable you to be more responsive to their emotions rather than getting more stressed yourself.
From a physical perspective, there are several nutritional influences which may change the nervous system and contribute to anxiety. These include excessive sugar in the diet, food allergies or sensitivity, chemical exposure, vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Ideally sugars and refined carbohydrates such as white flour should be eliminated from the diet. Possible food triggers, heavy metal or chemical settlement in the body can be determined through non-invasive hair testing. Calming and warming foods such as organic whole oat porridge are great for the nervous system and are encouraged in the diet.
Tools to help with anxiety
– Communication – talking openly and honestly with your children about changes and assuring them of your love and understanding is a powerful and effective tool.
– Breathing – teaching your child to deep breathe and relax gives them a valuable coping skill in situations which cause them anxiety. Doing this together with your child will help you both calm down.
– Aromatherapy – this is a gentle, yet effective method of calming the nervous system and creating a safe and relaxing environment. Try adding 4-6 drops of pure chamomile oil to a warm bath or add to an oil burner.
There are several herbal medicines available under the supervision of a naturopath which focus on supporting the nervous system and calming the child such as chamomile, passionflower and oat seed. Magnesium and calcium powders may help to relax tense muscles and also to moderate a firing response of the nervous system which is associated with anxiety. Massage and Energy Healing can help a child to feel comforted and let go of tension.
Kylie Cloney is a Naturopath, Herbalist and Nutritional Therapist.