ANXIETY

Ways to stop the transfer of anxiety to your child

On my last post i explained that i was waiting for my dissertation results – well i can now tell you i am very pleased to have received a first!!

According to Kirmayer (2019) a clinical psychologist, the main part of treating anxiety in children is teaching their parents stress tolerance. This helps to direct the parent’s anxiety, while also helping them support and scaffold their child’s development of stress tolerance.

So if your a parent and suffer from anxiety, then you should ensure that you stay calm, with a neutral demeanour when feeling anxious in front of your child. This will teach your child that being calm is the way to deal with stress. However, if you cannot control your anxiety infront of your child (there are times when i have not managed to stay calm and my girls have witnessed me have a full blown panic attack) then after the event the parent should explain to their child how they were feeling and explain why they acted the way they did.  You should then explain that there are better ways to deal with it and talk about strategies that might help. By talking about anxiety in this way with your child, you are letting them know that it is ok to feel stressed and anxious but you are teaching them that it is manageable.

It has been proven that parents’ behaviour and genetics can affect their child’s anxiety. Although a parent cannot change their genetics, there are ways parents can help their child not to get anxiety. It involves the parent modelling the behaviour they would like to see from their child, and not letting them witness any anxious behaviour.

A parent needs to look at their own worries and how they deal with it. Making changes to the way you act, can change how the child acts. You should give your child lots of encouragement and show you are interested in your child and the difficulties they are facing. For younger children reward charts can help, these reward the child for the behaviour you would like to see, for example sleeping in their own bed at night.

If you try to help your child avoid their triggers for anxiety, then although this might help in the short term, in the long term it is actually reinforcing the anxiety. It is more important to help them find techniques to manage their anxiety and to face up to it.

There is debate as to whether children should be given warnings prior to a routine change, as some need time to get used to the idea before it happens but others find this more stressful. Normally, you will know which your child would be better with.

The NHS suggests that a parent should talk to their child about how they are feeling, reassure them that they are not alone and that they understand how they are feeling. They should then support them with finding solutions to their anxieties rather than looking at how to avoid them. With a younger child, it is recommended to try and distract them from their anxiety, and with an older child relaxation techniques may be useful.

If the child’s anxiety gets no better after you have tried supporting them yourself, then seeking external support is the next step. Making an appointment with the child’s GP, who can then refer on to the local Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS). The Young Minds helpline is another point of contact, which can give you and your child advice on how to get support with their mental health. The support that is offered by CAMHS would depend on the child’s age and what is causing the anxiety. The most common support that is given for anxiety in cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). CBT involves talking to a therapist who helps the child identify patterns between what they think, feel and do in situations where they are feeling anxious. Occasionally, the counsellor may ask to do sessions with the whole family, especially if it is a family problem that has caused the anxiety. The NICE guidance states that CBT can be given one to one, or in a group, and that the child or young person should be seen between eight and twelve times.

Medication is used regularly with adults, but rarely with children. If CBT does not work with an adolescent or a young adult then a doctor may prescribe a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). Research shows that selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are the first line medication for children, and have been proven to work. There has been debate over the risks of children taking medication, but the research shows that the benefits outweigh the risks. Although, the long term effects have not been researched.

The American Psychiatric Association (2013) describes resilience as adapting well when faced with threat or tragedy. It first became a concept after the trauma of war. Practitioners in health, social care and education work together to try and promote resilience in children and young people. Parents can also help promote resilience in their children by providing their child with a balanced and positive view of the world and explaining to the children that although bad things can happen, that society and individuals can overcome them. Resilience can be built by talking, problem solving and support.

The Education Secretary, Damian Hinds (2019) explained that compulsory health education, including mental health support will be taught in schools. These lessons will include mindfulness lessons and breathing techniques which will improve a child’s resilience. He also added that the Government is launching mental health trials in 370 schools, with them contributing evidence of the best mental health supports. This will include having a designated mental health first aider.

 

Just remember that talking to your child about anxiety and showing them ways to deal with it helps. Children copy their parents behaviours so try and explain to them why you have acted in a certain way.

Talking is the best therapy.

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ANXIETY

A child’s anxiety

Since I can remember my eldest daughter has suffered from anxiety. She has always worried about her families, friends and her own health, she has worried about the house burning down, everything she can worry about – she does. We use to think it was something she would grow out of. She would check we had locked the doors, check we had turned off the hob and the oven and would ask us to check too.

But then came the 22nd May 2017 – the day that changed her life and most peoples in England. She and her sister had received tickets for Ariana Grande’s concert for Christmas. As I was due to give birth on the 20th May (he came on the 15th) we had asked my sister to take the girls to the concert. They were very excited as they had watched Ariana on TV for a few years on Victorious and Sam and Cat and loved her.

After school they got ready and went to the train station with my sister. The train was cancelled and the next one they could get was going to mean they missed the support acts. But this is what happened as they couldn’t get an earlier train. I had a text off them to say they had arrived and then a photo of them enjoying the concert.

I then went to sleep as my baby was only a few days old and I was trying to sleep when he was. My husband was going to drive to Manchester to pick them up so I knew they were in safe hands.

But I was awoken by my phone ringing, my sister spoke and said “I am just letting you know we are all ok”. I said “ok” i thought it was wierd her ringing to say they were ok as i hadn’t thought they wouldn’t be. But then she said “have you not seen the news?” I hadn’t. She told me what had happened.

They had been enjoying the show and then Ariana had gone off stage and had been called back on for a final song. She came on and sang “One last time”. Hollie had needed the toilet at this point but my sister had said for her  to wait. As you all know what happened next, i won’t explain it. I know a lot of people’s lives changed for ever that day – 22 lives lost, many injured. My daughter Ella’s story is that of post traumatic stress disorder.

Ella was trampled on in the fight to escape the building – her shoe had come off and she was trying to get it back. She was very slightly injured but nothing that needed medical attention – she was very lucky in this respect. My sister did an excellent job of keeping my daughters both safe and i will be eternally grateful to her for this. When my husband arrived he saw what had happened and was focused on finding the girls and my sister and getting them to safety – which he did. When the girls arrived home they were in shock – all they could think of was praying that Ariana was ok. I don’t think at their age they had understood the scale as to what had happened and all the people involved. At that point we wanted to shelter them from it.

But the next day at school (they went in late, but it was their sports day so we knew it would distract them) everyone was talking about what had happened. The news was all about it (as obviously it would be) and so our plan to shelter them from it, came to an end and we had to answer their many many questions. This continued for the following weeks as everytime the radio was on there would be a report on it and the girls would have more questions.

At first we thought they were both dealing with it well, considering. But as time went on we realised Ella was struggling.

Over the summer she stopped eating, her anxiety over everything had got worse. She found chewing hard, as she thought she was going to choke on her food, so instead she stopped eating. This was horrendous to watch your 9 year old daughter being too scared to eat. We took her to the doctors, who confirmed to her there was nothing wrong with her physically to stop her eating but obviously her anxiety needed treatment. She had also started having panic attacks.

CAMHs thankfully got her in very quickly – this was mainly due to the Manchester Resilience Hub ensuring that anyone who had been present at Manchester on that night, that needed counselling, was seen within 2 weeks of seeing a doctor. The Manchester Resilience Hub also sent out questionnaires around this time for anyone who attended the concert to fill in, online. From the results of Ella’s questionnaire – they had phoned me to speak about her results and see in what way they could help.

CAMHs deemed her not to need the post traumatic stress counselling, but that she did need regularly counselling for her anxiety and panic attacks. She started having counselling once a week – i wasn’t allowed in with her. After a few weeks she came out and said i have told them i do not need the counselling anymore. I couldn’t do anything about this, even though i think she should have carried on.

Things got a bit better, she started eating again but she still won’t eat any meat that is chewy as it gets her into a panic. Over the last year or so the panic attacks have become more regular again. Anytime she hears a loud noise from an unknown source or their is an alarm of any kind she goes into a panic. She says she can hear screaming and thinks that their is another terrorist attack. It is horrendous as a parent to see her like this and not be able to do anything to help. A few days ago we were in Morrisons cafe and the fire alarm started going off. Ella started having a panic attack. People were running around, others were hardly moving as no one knew what to do. It turned out to be a false alarm but this did not help as Ella was in a full panic attack by this point. We have realised that we need to find her some more help and support as she seems to be getting worse rather than better.

The Manchester Resilience Hub has been brilliant, they send regular questionnaires which she answers and due to her answers they also ring us quite regularly to see what help they can offer.  The problem is that they signpost us to CAMHs who are so overrun that nothing seems to come of it.

I know many people were affected by the attack and alot are far worse off than my daughter but i wanted to share her story to show that it is not just us adults that suffer from anxiety and that although the affects on her are not physical they are still deep and affect her everyday life.