How To Deal With The Anxious Child

Loren Shlaes writes:

The anxious child treats many everyday activities as if he is experiencing them for the first time. He can’t easily adapt to novelty, and he can’t internalize routine. Long after the beginning of the school year, he enters the classroom and needs adult supervision and guidance to take off his coat, put his backpack in his cubby, and sit down at his desk.

The anxious child isolates himself in the corner, hangs back on the playground, won’t touch the craft materials at school, won’t try new foods, won’t participate in circle time. He hangs on his mother and has a hard time separating from her and diving into the cheerful chaos of the classroom, earning his mother the disapproval of the school’s social workers for making him too dependent on her. He has a very hard time going to sleep and wakes up during the night. At family gatherings he disappoints the relatives because he can’t bring himself to allow the grownups to hug and kiss him or to play with his cousins, preferring to sit in a corner and read a book or engage in some other solitary activity.

Top down strategies {appealing to the child’s intellect to overcome his inability to participate in everyday life} are of little use when a child is chronically anxious. The child can’t talk easily talk himself into doing what the grownups want him to do. The more the grownups try to persuade, the more obstinate he becomes. He can’t intellectually persuade himself that everything is all right. He can’t self regulate or self soothe. He gets jacked up and stays that way, escalating until the inevitable melt down, or he is seen as having a frozen affect, looking like a deer in the headlights. His automatic response to life is a resounding “NO!” and he may come across as perpetually defiant or angry.

Blog Home