Many children suffer from unrecognized stress and anxiety. Parents may mistakenly call it difficult behavior, acting up, or simply label it as out of control. Let us remember underneath that outward expression may be inner anxiety. If you dig a little deeper, you might ask yourself a few questions and consider these facets of parenting.
What contributes to my child’s behavior?
Do I allow for the expression of emotion, or is it my preference to stifle strong emotions?
Do I let them say “no”?
Do I allow for transition time?
Am I more of a talker or more of a listener?
Has there been a death in the family?
Are there parental relationship challenges?
Is someone at school problematic?
Many factors, big and little, may be a part of their stress.
When their behavior is out of the norm, try talking to them, rather than regularly correcting them. If you can refrain from resorting to some form of punishment, you may receive valuable information. “Let’s talk about what is happening with you right now,” can be helpful.
Try to keep their routine as close as possible to the one with which they are familiar. This kind of structure is calming.
Teach children breathing techniques.
Play some music.
Create a space for them to retreat.
Go outside for a walk.
Of course, a little gentle hug can also soothe their anxiety.
And rather than say, “Calm down”, say something less demanding like, “I see you are upset. What do you need from me?”
“Let me know if I can help you.” Even if they don’t take you up on it right away, they will remember. And perhaps they will share when they can.
Recognizing and soothing children’s anxiety is a worthwhile endeavor. Everyone benefits.