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Your ADD child and anxiety

We are living in an age of anxiety. As you are probably aware, there seems to be more and more stressors we need to deal with on a daily basis. Whether it is the weather, the traffic, the construction, the taxes, the world news, or issues within our own environment; stress has an impact on most of us on a daily basis.

Therefore, I shouldn't be surprised when more and more clients who come to see me cite "stress and anxiety" as their prime concern. What is a surprise, however, is how the ages of these clients are getting younger and younger. I am seeing parents with concerns about their child's separation anxiety and social anxiety as well as obsessive/compulsive disorders. These children are starting as young as 5 years old to have panic attacks and suffer with anxiety. What makes this problem even more worrisome, is a good percentage of these children have also been diagnosed or as suspected as having the additional challenge of ADD or ADHD.

The parents are often stunned as why their young children are suffering with so much anxiety. The reason is that even though anxiety is a normal emotion experienced by everyone, at one time or another, a child or adolescent with an anxiety disorder experiences the symptoms more often, more readily and more intensely than others. It affects their sleep, their daily lives, their confidence and feelings of safety. It is not an emotion that reassurance by the parents can diminish, because it is fueled by fear and rumination, not by logic.

It is understandable why a child living with the challenges of ADD or ADHD, would experience even higher levels of anxiety than their peers not suffering with ADD.

On top of the usual fears and worried the many of these children feel, the ADD children also have the added burden of worrying about fitting in and being accepted. They know they don't get things as quickly or as easily as their peers. They often feel that they are "the square peg trying to fit in the round hole". They often see themselves are failures, judge themselves harshly and are often the victims of bullying behaviours. They know they can't process information the same as their peers, and this knowing often makes them feel fearful and anxious.

As a group, anxiety disorders in children are more common than any other psychiatric disorder.

Children with ADHD, especially when untreated, are more likely to feel overwhelmed, confused, and powerless and often like a failure. These feelings create negative self-talk which further increases their anxiety and disappointment in themselves. People with ADD/HD also tend to be more sensitive, which can leave them especially vulnerable to feeling things more deeply and being more affected by situations and emotions.

The good news is that anxiety is controllable. Here are some suggestions that will help.

How to help your child

  • Provide a safe, structured and predictable environment. Develop and maintain daily routines. Structure eases your child's feelings of anxiety. Be consistent, positive and nurturing in your parental approach. Inform and explain to your child any changes in routine in advance.
  • Encourage your child to express his fears and emotions. Don't minimize them, validate them
  • Let the teachers know the challenges your child is facing. It will help them to be more supportive and understanding.
  • Empower your child by equipping them with strategies to deal with their anxieties
    • Teach them breathing exercises
    • Progressive relaxation techniques
    • EFT tapping technique
    • Self-talk that corrects the negative self-talk
    • Assertiveness techniques that allows them to express their needs in a calm and respectful manner
  • Be aware that exhaustion, lack of sleep, illness, family stress and tensions, and changes in routine can seriously affect your child's feelings of anxiety.
  • Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy is the best psychological approach for reducing anxiety in children as well as adults

Your child may be more prone than others to feeling stressed, anxious and worried at times. Being open to helping your child learn these techniques whether with yourself or with an experienced therapist will go far towards empowering your child to learn there are solutions and tools they can use which can help improve their self-confidence, reduce their worries and empower them to feel equipped to meet the challenges they need to face on a daily basis and in their future. Isn't that what all of us want for our children?

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