Why New Year’s Increases Child Anxiety in Anxious Kids
Holidays are generally difficult for adults and children that have any type of anxiety disorder. New Year’s is no exception. Depending on the type of anxiety that a child suffers from, anything from social parties, to food, to going back to school can trigger serious anxiety. This can include meltdowns, physical symptoms and panic attacks. Sometimes, these stressors in children are only compounded by well-meaning loved-ones that do not understand why your child is not excited and equally joyful during each and every holiday party.
If you see your child off in the corner, avoiding social experiences with other family members and friends, or if they continue to need noise-cancelling headphones, this may be a sign of stress or anxiety during holiday gatherings.
Three reasons why New Year’s Triggers Anxiety in Kids
Christmas is another high anxiety and panic inducing holiday just like New Year’s Eve. This joyful holiday can create anxiety in parents that don’t normally deal with any anxiety disorders. The stress and anxiety from parents roll onto children, who, if they have an anxiety disorder, can add this to their own stressors and it compounds. New Year’s is so close to Christmas, by the time Christmas is over, the child is still on edge and there is no time to relax before New Year’s shows up. When New Year’s arrives, there comes more uncertainty and change. For those parents who have children who don’t struggle with these issues, it can be difficult to understand. However, those that deal with child anxiety on a regular basis understand and know this time of year can be especially difficult and meltdowns usually happen without warning.
Uncertainty is a big trigger for kids struggling with anxiety, and the New Year’s holiday often brings uncertain events, such as loud fireworks, banging pots and pans, bright lights and other sensory triggers that heighten anxiety. It also includes the uncertainty of an entire new year and the unknown. Most people look at this as a good thing, but kids who struggle with anxiety look at it as more worry. Worry about what to expect in the New Year when there will definitely be change.
Finally, a big trigger for anxious kids is going back to school. Refusing to go to school, or having physical complaints such as stomachaches or headaches are some of the core signs and symptoms of a child with an anxiety disorder. The child gets a break from school, but sometimes with all the parties, socializing, and fun they don’t get to relax and then it’s back to school after New Year. Year after year, New Year’s is associated with the end of the winter break and the need to return to the educational calendar. A child can build up this tension and then have a meltdown when the New Year arrives because it’s associated with the end of a vacation.
Calm Anxiety during New Year’s Eve
There are ways to help an anxious child around this heightened time of year. Here are five tips that could be a big help for parents.
Stop reassuring your child
It’s natural to hear an upset child’s worry and know there is nothing to fear so you respond with “trust me, there is nothing to worry about.” If it were that easy, there would be no anxiety issues anywhere. Your child desperately wants to listen to you and believe you, but their brain won’t let that happen. During an episode of anxiety there is a massive push of chemicals and one of the by-products is the logical part of the brain gets put on hold and the emotional side takes over.
Try out the FEEL method
There is an amazing website that is one hundred percent all about helping childhood anxiety. It is called gozen.com. This is where I discovered the FEEL method. An easy to remember, four-step method that really works!
- Freeze: Pause and take some deep breaths with your child.
- Empathize: Your child wants you to know that anxiety is scary.
- Evaluate: Figure out some solutions together.
- Let Go: Let go of your own guilt. You are a great parent in teaching your child tools to manage their anxiety.
Discuss upcoming plans and schedules
As parents, most appreciate a balanced schedule and an idea of what items need to be accomplished in a day, week, etc. This is the same for children. Perhaps even writing down a basic daily schedule could help a child with anxiety to better mentally prepare for upcoming events or tasks.
Transition from the “What if” thoughts to reality
Sometimes an anxious child can spend a great amount of mental time in the future asking the question “what if?” “What if I am late to school?” “What if Tammy doesn’t talk to me?” “What if I can’t find my dad after soccer practice?” It is natural to spend some mental time in the future, but it becomes an issue when it is all consuming. The young person focuses on what could happen instead of reality. Try some mindfulness with your child by helping them focus on breathing and ask them what is happening right now? If they just finished cleaning their room or making their bed, try saying “thank you for making your bed.” It brings them back to the present.
Allow some worry time
If your child is having a major meltdown or persistent worries that happen daily, allow a 5 to 10 minute worry window where the child can freely express their stressors. In this window, there are no worries that are not valid. After the time frame is up, help your child say goodbye to their worries for the day.
Integrated Learning Strategies is a Utah-based center dedicated to helping mainstream children and children with learning disabilities achieve academic success. Our services provide kids with non-traditional tutoring programs within the Davis County, Kaysville, Layton, Syracuse, Farmington, and Centerville areas. Areas to find Integrated Learning Strategies include: Reading tutors in Kaysville, Math tutors in Kaysville, Common Core Tutors in Kaysville, Tutors in Utah, Utah Tutoring Programs
10 Jan 2017