You’re tired of endless parenting techniques. You just want to know what’s going on in your child.
The meltdowns. The outbursts. Your child sprinting away from you, creating chaos.
It happens anywhere and sometimes without warning. In these moments, time stretches out, embarrassment flames in your cheeks, and you do everything you can to just make it through.
In parenting seasons like this, it can be difficult to even know what you want or how to keep the outburst at bay. Actually there may be at least one thing you want: a nap! It is exhausting doing battle with your children.
In my work as a child therapist, I have seen children who are labeled angry kids. When a child is biting, kicking, shouting, and ignoring –well the angry label kinda makes sense.
But your child may actually not be angry, but anxious. When a child appears aggressive or oppositional he or she may be reacting to anxiety.
Disruptive behavior can often be produced by anxiety that goes on unrecognized. Depending on the child’s age, your child may not have the language development to articulate effectively, or may not even recognize fully that he or she is even anxious.
The common picture of anxiety is clingy and freezing behavior, but it can also show up in meltdowns and tantrums. Anxiety feels like danger, and when danger comes, the body maximizes its ability to escape the danger or face it. So while a child may show anxiety by shrinking in avoidance of fear triggers, others may feel an overwhelming need to break away from the situation.
So what’s the plan to fix the tantrums?
First, in understanding that your child’s behavior problems may be due to anxiety, the first thing you can do is try to make a mental shift. Your child may not be trying to make you miserable, but may actually be miserable themselves!
Second, seeking help may be appropriate. Anxiety often wears a mask, so consider getting help from someone at your school or within the field of mental health who knows how to identify anxiety in children. This can also be helpful in determining if other issues are going on at the same time.
And lastly, equip your child with strategies to combat anxiety! Here are a list of great books and resources that you as a parent can read with your child. The “Sitting Still Like a Frog” even includes mindfulness-based audio that you can listen to together. Also check out this blog post written by my colleague with three tangible ways to help your child who is anxious.
You could remain exhausted from doing battle with your child, hoping to simply make it through. Or you could seek to understand the world through their eyes, clasping hands and fighting anxiety side by side.
Looks like you may be looking soon for another reason to take that nap…
-Alexandra Hoerr, MA, LCPC
Child Therapist | LCPC, RPT
It’s hard work but research has shown that helping your child now, while their brain is still growing, will reduce risk of regression, increase quality in learning, and will pave the way for a hopeful future.
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