This is a list of the questions and suggestions from our Principal Clinical Psychologist. If you would like to submit an Anxiety related question please visit our Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/GroupworxPsychology. Simply submit your question to the Facebook Message Inbox and your question will be anonymously posted on our page for other parents to post their advice and comments. Advice from Principal Clinical Psychologist, Stefanie Schwartz will also be provided to EVERY question asked within 24 hours. Her advice will be posted on this page.
After some advice to help my 5yr son who has anxiety. He hides it very well- comes through as licking things in class eg desk, chair leg & has his hands constantly in his mouth as school. He's just been diagnosed with ADHD. At home he doesn't do this. We have a very good relationship with our boy & hate to see him suffer.
It is a little known fact that Anxiety and ADHD often co-occur AND the symptoms you describe (licking, hands in mouth) are again VERY COMMON for children who have both ADHD and Anxiety. While it may be helpful to know that the symptoms your son is displaying 'fit' these diagnoses (Read more about it at PsychCentral http://psychcentral.com/lib/[removed]2011/when-adhd-and-anxiety-[removed]occur-together/), it doesn't make it any easier for either of you to cope with the issue. Here are a few tips:
1. A very effective anxiety management tool (particularly for children with ADHD) is relaxation. Try to do a 5 minute relaxation activity with your son each night. When he gets better at it - encourage him to try the relaxation out at different parts of his day when he is feeling overwhelmbed.
2. Discuss the anxiety with him. It is often difficult for a 5 year old to talk about emotions, particularly anxiety. Begin to discuss with him your own anxieties, and start to notice when he may begin to feel anxious and talk about it with him. You may find it helpful to talk about anxiety as a separate entity; 'What is the Worry Monster telling you?'
3. Read more at our Free Resources page on Anxiety Management techniques.
4. Your son may be appropriate for our Anxiety Management group. He is slightly younger than our intake age (which is 6 years), but he can be assessed and it can be decided whether the group would be appropriate for him. Contact for more details on an assessment.
5. Your Paediatrician sounds extremely helpful - discuss with your Doctor Clinical Psychologists in the area who may be offer therapy around Anxiety Management. Medicare rebates are available for registered Clinical Psychologists.
Anxiety with Peers
My 10 year old is having difficulties with anxiety. She doesn't like to go to other people's houses to play and I'm worried it will begin to affect her social interactions.
Anxiety is the most common psychological issue for children and young people. It is important for you to stay calm about the issue(kids pick up on everything around them). Discussing her worries with her is one of the best thing you can do. Although it may be hard for a 10 year old to verbalise what is concerning her... you may have to be a bit of a detective to help her work out what is going on. It can be helpful if you make suggestions about what the worry may be about "are you worried that your friends will be mean?", "do you worry you'll do something silly in front of your friends?" and at 10 years old, your daughter will be able to tell you if you're right or wrong. Even if you're on the wrong track, this will help to open up discussions about her worry. Also, talking about worry in the third person can be helpful "what does the worry say in your head?", "What does the worry make you do?" - this allows children to talk more freely about their concerns, because the worry seems separate from them. She may benefit from our Anxiety Management Groups - we have some free bulk billed spots available for Term 3 in Eastern Suburbs Sydney. Contact us for more info.
Good Luck! Starting to notice your daughter's concerns is the first step - sounds like you're doing a fantastic job.
Any suggestions for severe separation anxiety with my 14 month old son, especially in the mornings...?
The first thing to know is that developmentally, separation anxiety peaks between 12-18months - so this is a completely normal and expected phase. Although, that doesn't make it any easier though for you! It's important to give him the cuddles and attention that he wants... When he feels 'full' from all of that he will go out and explore. When he needs to be 'refilled' he comes straight back. Some bubs can go off for an hour before checking in with mum... others need to check in every few minutes to be 'refilled'. It makes sense that he is more anxious in the morning... because he has spent the whole night away from you, so has a lot of 'refilling' to do. He will grow out of it, but in the meantime practice separating in small ways "Darling, mums just walking to the kitchen" or "Can you go over there and get the ball for me" and then move to bigger separations like leaving him with someone he's familiar with for 20 minutes while you go out.
It's also good just to talk to him about what you're doing - once he has the vocabulary to understand and explain himself it will make communicating about his anxiety so much easier. You're doing an AWESOME job! Ive got an article coming out on Mums Lounge later this week about this topic (inspired by my own similar experience with my son!) which I will post here when it is up.
GOOD LUCK! You're dong a fabulous job
My son is 7 and has just started to become very afraid of going to the bathroom on his own. Is this a phobia?? I've heard the only way for him to get over his worry is if I just push my son to face his fear.
We do tend to place a lot of labels on what children experience to help us deal with their difficulties; Phobic, Phobia, Fear, Scared, Worried. In a sense it doesn’t really matter what word we apply to what your child is experiencing, the only important thing to ask is: 'Is this interfereing with my child's ability to function?' If the answer is yes, then we need to address it. because while it is normal to have certain anxieties, when the worries start interfering with your child’s ability to function then it needs to be addressed.
In terms of exposing your son to his fear, to some extent this idea is correct. But ‘all-at-once’ exposure is not a very nice way of helping your child. Imagine if I said to you “Oh, so you’re scared of dogs - here’s a huge Great Dane. Just sit with him alone in this room for a few hours and it’ll help you get over it" You’d be petrified! What we need to do instead with your son is Graded Exposure. So we gradually expose him to his fear in little bite size chunks that he can handle. This type of exposure is easier to handle.
If you’re going to try to expose your child to a fear of theirs, here are some important things to remember:
Talk to your child about the idea of helping them with their fears and what exposure is. Don’t put your child in an uncomfortable situation without discussing it with them. This will only increase the fear level and decrease trust in you.
Think of some strategies that you can help your child to use when in a feared situation (e.g. slow breathing).
Your child needs to stay in the uncomfortable situation until their fear level decreases (it will decrease!). Leaving when anxiety is still high will do more harm than good.
Help your child by modeling this idea of exposure with anxieties you may have in your life.
Speak to a Clinical Psychologist who can help you to address the issue if you’re having difficulty dealing with it on your own. Contact for more information.
GOOD LUCK! It sounds like you're very aware of your child's anxiety which is always the first step in helping them.
Anxiety & Thinking
My 10 yr old son suffers from anxiety and is very bright and emotional - he's a great child! But lately I have become aware he has very inflexible thinking - very black and white, doesn't like change and can't change track easily. He is rational to the point if being irrational at times and finds negotiating very hard. He is also quite a negative thinker. How can I help him become more flexible and open minded in his thinking?
The first thing to note is that black and white thinking and anxiety go hand in hand. So it's great that you've noticed your son's tendency to have this all-or-nothing type thinking; it's often something that gets overlooked. The cognitive behavioural model of anxiety suggests that the way we feel (in your son's case anxious) is a direct result of how and what we think (in your son's case black and white thinking style). So, by making some changes to his thinking styles you will also notice improvements in his anxiety symptoms.
But that is the big question... how to make his thinking more flexible! With children it is often helpful to talk about the difficulties in simple terms that they understand. With young clients I often explain that to get on top of the anxiety they need to become thought detectives who are on the lookout for anxious thinking styles or 'traps' (there are many... not just the black-and-white thinking you've described). So, with your help (initially he will need prompting from you) he will be a detective and begin to notice when the black and white thinking trap is around. Just focus on this first step of detecting the anxious thinking trap for a while before moving to step two.
The second step is about challenging the anxious thoughts with special detective questions.
Good detective questions include things such as:
What is the evidence for and against this thought?
Have I ever been in a situation like this before? Was it really that bad?
Am I 100% sure this will happen?
What's another way of looking at this?
What is the most likely thing to happen?
Am I being too hard on myself?
What would I tell my best friend if they were in this situation?
Am I concentrating only on the negatives?
It can be useful to write down your detective questions and answers so that you can a) have a structure to follow and b) can return to the detective worksheet in the future if a similar situation crops up again. Here is an example of a detective worksheet. Giving lots of encouragement and praise for thinking of answers to these sometimes difficult questions is extremely important!
Another great suggestiion is to try these tecniques when your child is NOT anxious. For example, if you're reading a book you could ask you son these same questions 'What else could happen?', 'How else might the main character feel in this situation?'. This will encourage your son to think in different ways than is his 'usual' style.
It sounds like you are doing a fabulous job of staying on top of your son's anxiety. Keep up the great work. There are a number of other potential ideas to assist your son that are outside the scope of this short answer. If you have further difficulties you might want to consider our Anxiety Management Group or speaking with another mental health professional.
Anxiety & New School
Hi my 7 year old girl seems to have a lot of anxieties now we are thinking about changing her school and I'm concerned she won't cope with the change and I have no idea how to tell her. I don't want her to think she had done something wrong and that is why we are moving her.?
It seems as though there are two parts to your question; firstly you are concerned about your daughter's anxieties and want to know how to assist her with these and secondly you want to know how to best manage discussing moving to a new school.
To help you with your first question have a look at GroupWorx Psychology's helpful tip sheet on anxiety management in children which you can download here.
In regard to your second question - it is always best to be completely open and honest with your child, particularly if they have anxious tendencies. Set aside some time to speak with her privately (i.e. no siblings running around, no TV on etc) and just be clear and concise about your plan to move her to a new school. Explain to her why you think it will be helpful for her, what might be hard about the move and how you plan to help her with the difficult parts. It is sometimes helpful to have a small distraction for your child while having an intense discussion like this e.g. drawing. This way your child can listen to what you're saying, but have an outlet (the drawing) for when the conversation may get a bit much for her. Encourage your child to ask any questions she has about the move and voice any worries or concerns she has. Sometimes children with anxiety start having more concerns the more they think about a new scenario. So, you may want to create a 'Moving To a New School Questions' sheet for her so that if she thinks of any questions in the days following your discussion she can write them down whrever she is and then you can answer them for her later.
Good Luck - moving schools is difficult, but it sounds as though you are really wanting the best for your daughter and will do whatever it takes to achieve that goal.