During our December PAG meeting, Dr. Kristen Wynns presented a talk on Identifying and Reducing Anxiety in Children. She opened the talk by sharing her credentials, joking that she was doubly qualified on the topic as she was not only a psychologist but also a parent herself. She has two girls (ages 13 and 10).
The first focus of our conversation was on determining whether a child was suffering from anxiety. Although it may be difficult to distinguish between normal childhood fears and anxiety, there are symptoms to look for. If your child has “difficulty controlling excessive worry” (present more days than not) in addition to any of the following, Dr. Wynns suggested that you may want to seek a professional’s help:
1. Restlessness or feeling keyed up or on edge
2. Being easily fatigued
3. Difficulty concentrating or mind going blank
5. Muscle tension
6. Sleep disturbance (difficulty falling or staying asleep, unsatisfying sleep)
Dr. Wynns shared several actions that parents and caregivers can do at home or at school to help alleviate a child’s symptoms (she mentioned that these practices would benefit most children, but can be especially helpful to those suffering from anxiety).
Mindfulness, relaxation exercises, consistent schedules and healthy sleeping habits were among her top suggestions. Modeling positive self-talk was another major talking point.
Dr. Wynns noted that it was very important not to encourage our children to avoid anxious feelings or situations which make them feel anxious. She suggested that this practice would only affirm their fears.
For more information about Dr.Wynns talk you can read her handout, ABCs of Anxiety Workshop Heartwood Montesorri. For more information about working with Dr. Wynns you can visit her website or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Dr.Wynns is not affiliated with Heartwood Montessori School and is not Montessori trained or certified.