by Dr. Shanthi Thomas
Life is not easy for mothers of anxious kids. They are called upon to comfort and to reassure their children who are anxious for real and imaginary reasons. There is no doubt that they would benefit greatly from adopting some life hacks into their daily practices. Let us see what the top life hacks for mothers of anxious kids are.
An anxious child needs reassurance constantly, on a daily basis. If the anxiety is severe, he may have trouble sleeping, and may be reluctant to go to school. All this can be very difficult for the mother, and she is quite likely to get overwhelmed by the demands placed on her by the anxious child, on top of the other tasks that are normal in any home. When overwhelmed, her own health can suffer, both mentally and physically. So, it is of paramount importance that she takes time off to take care of herself. She has to do things for herself too, such as going for a massage, or working out, to recharge. It is important also to spend time with women friends in a relaxed setting.
Make your home a happy place. One way to do this is to carry out all those inevitable fights with your husband behind closed doors, preferably in your bedroom where your kids cannot hear you. When parents fight, anxious kids get terribly anxious. The same goes for discussions of other kinds of problems that threatens a child’s sense of security, such as arguments about money matters. Parents are the vessel that holds the child; the slightest crack in the vessel threatens the child’s well-being and makes him anxious.
Set a predictable routine for daily life at home. For example, there should be a routine before going to bed. For a school going child it could include packing the school bag and laying out the uniforms ready for the next day, saying one’s prayers if the family is religious minded, and going to bed at a fixed time. One useful item to add to the routine is to switch off all electronic gadgets at home about two hours before sleep. Predictable routines are comforting for an anxious child.
There are some simple techniques that you can teach your child that can reduce his anxiety considerably.
It has been scientifically proven that cuddly pets such as cats and dogs have an anxiety alleviating effect. In the case of anxious kids who are unlikely to have many close friends, a pet gives the companionship they sorely need. Many teenagers report that when they are anxious they hug their dogs or cats and even talk to them!
Pressure applied on the body gives a tactile sensory input that immediately calms an anxious child. Deep pressure can be in the form of tight hugs, cuddling, squeezing, compression or swaddling. When deep pressure is applied to the body, the parasympathetic nervous system is activated reducing the anxiety, and at the same time releasing feel-good neurotransmitters of the brain – dopamine and serotonin.
It would be unrealistic to expect a very anxious child to do very well in school or to be the topper in the class. When unrealistic expectations are made known to kids who are already anxious, they get overwhelmed and perform even worse than how they would otherwise do. It is important to reassure an anxious kid who worries about an upcoming exam, saying ‘You are more than your grades, and you are more important than your grades’.
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