How to identify anxiety in your child and help them cope
'Know that it really is common and that there are practical strategies'
Elm Street Elementary in Summerside, P.E.I., will be offering a session for parents Wednesday evening on how to identify anxiety in children and how to help them manage it.
The panel discussion How to Help Your Child With Anxiety and Self Regulation aims to help parents identify anxiety so that together with their children, they can take steps to manage it.
"I think when we think of anxiety, we think of the traditional worrier and so we definitely see worrying happening with children at school," said Bethany Toombs, a counsellor at Parkside Elementary and one of the speakers on the panel, in an interview on CBC Radio: Island Morning Tuesday.
"Whether it's the way that they're talking, or trying to avoid things that scare them. So we definitely see that happening with elementary children including students refusing to come to school or coming to school and saying they need to come home."
Anxiety wears many faces
Anxiety in children doesn't always look like worrying, Toombs said,
If you're trying to teach your child to self-regulate, really look at your own behaviour in the moment.— Bethany Toombs
"It can look like defiance, it could look like anger, so sometimes it's really anxiety underlying that."
Toombs also said there could be a connection between anxious kids and anxious adults.
She said through her work she's noticed that parents who tend to worry about things like grim headlines in the news transfer that anxiety to their children.
One of the strategies she wants parents to walk away with is called co-regulation, which necessitates that parents practice self-regulation as well.
"If you're trying to teach your child to self-regulate, really look at your own behaviour in the moment, when they're getting upset. Are you, yourself, as the adult raising your voice? Are you yelling?"
"It's easy to get caught up in that emotion. But when we model calm for children, that's how they learn to cope."
She said she hopes parents walk away from the panel knowing they're not alone.
"If they are dealing with a child or they themselves have anxiety to know that it really is common and that there are practical strategies that they can start doing."
In addition to Toombs' expertise, the panel will also include Island pediatricians, a counselling consultant from the Public Schools Branch, and other school counsellors.
The panel is being offered at Elm Street Elementary School's library on Wednesday at 6 p.m. Parents with children attending Parkside Elementary are also welcome.
More P.E.I. news
With files from Isabella Zavarise