What does kid’s anxiety look like?

Parents, I know back to school is a stressful time for everyone. ESPECIALLY right now, we’re all facing fears and changes that aren’t easy.

When your kid isn’t coping very well- it can be tough to figure out what’s going on.

  • Is it anxiety?
  • Is it just worry?
  • Is it rebellion?

We want to clarify what anxiety looks like in kids. Anxiety in kids looks different than it does in adults. Our in house child therapist, Kate Miller, explains the difference…

Anxiety can look like hyperactivity

Anxiety in kids (especially young kids) can look like the inability to be still (in ways that are usually normal for them) and the inability to focus. This can sometimes be identified as ADD or ADHD when it is really anxiety. 

Anxiety can look like regression.

Anxiety in kids can look like regression in development, which can be, having accidents after being consistently potty trained, returning to baby talk or renewed separation anxiety.

Anxiety can look like becoming withdrawn or frozen.

Anxiety in kids can look like a lack of interest in the things that they used to be important to them. This can be school, sports or friendships. 

So what can you do about it?

It’s important to try to identify what’s going on with your kid. Sometimes we see the “negative” behaviors our kids have and think it’s an attitude problem or something that needs to be corrected. But if you see these more specific behaviors, it may be anxiety. As a parent when your kid is anxious what they need most is someone to listen- even to the irrational fears. “My teacher hates me” or “I’m never going back to school!” They can try to release that tension in irrational ways- but if we can respond with compassion first, they will feel heard. When a kid feels heard, it’s much easier for them to calm down. Once they’re calm, you can talk about how to express their emotions differently, you can bring in consequences (it’s ok to feel anxious about going back to school, but it’s not ok to refuse to get in the car in the morning).

One more thing to remember: when you’re dealing with your kid’s mental health, always reach out for more help! Ask the school counselor or talk to a family therapist. 

What does over-moralizing feeling like? (scrupulosity)

I remember growing up in the church having this idea that every decision I made was a path toward sin or righteousness. Even the clothes I wore were seen as bad or good. A value statement was put on what movies I watched (I’m talking like Disney movies, not X rated), we had to be careful about what we wore and what slang words we used (oh my gosh was too close to oh my god). I started to view my life like I was preparing for judgement. Whether before God or before the people around me- my community, my leaders. It was all about my performance, the choices I made were a sign of whether I was devoted enough my christianity.

I think this is a common experience in the modern church. The message you receive is that your choices and your behavior prove whether I belong (more on belonging in the church later…). This over-scrupulousness is what can attach itself to us, even after we’ve moved out of that kind of religious culture. It can feel like there is one narrow path you must walk down to be “enough” or to be “good enough.”

Our past religious experiences teaches us to submit to a moral and virtuous life. As I have walked with clients through these experiences, I see there is so much value in letting your life be guided by a moral code and by the love of a higher power. I think it can lead to growth and health and a love for your God. It’s also is an important part of your story and identity.

But I have also seen people deeply wounded by the church of their past. Sometimes the church can engulf our sense of self and holds us to an impossible standard in order to belong.

Many of my clients process this kind of inner conflict. In therapy we work on letting go of legalism and self-criticism, and holding on to those beliefs that bring hope and healing. It’s a necessary step in taking ownership of our faith as adults.

I talk more about deconstructing your faith and how to handle doubt here.

Written by Morgan Myers, LPC

A little about me… I help women who feel boxed in by self-doubt, criticism and the expectations of others. Some women come to me burned out and wanting to understand where they went wrong. Sometimes women come in to process their past pain from church and religion- rejection, dark night of the soul, legalism, or doubt in God. It can be so difficult to even know what we need, let alone asking for those needs to be met. Many of my clients are trying to cope with depression or stress from this season of life. Sometimes we work on healing their past pain so they can grow and move on. More about me here.

I WALK ALONG SIDE YOU THROUGH THE PAIN AND SELF-AWARENESS INTO A HAPPIER MORE HOPEFUL LIFE.

I also have a side-project called Motherlift. I founded it alongside my Doula sister- Macy Morrow. Motherlift is an educational platform for mothers in every stage of motherhood. We help women from pregnancy through parenting cope with all the changes, chaos, and challenges that come with the role of motherhood. It’s a total blast! Check it out here.

3 Ways to release the self-doubt that holds you back

1. Self-doubt=fear- Let go of fear by naming it for what it is.

And no one ever made a good decision out of fear.

It’s easy to let our lives take the shape of whatever we’re reacting to, whatever we’re retreating from. Like being afraid to take a risk in a relationship and feeling more isolated, afraid to speak up for what you believe and let the conversation continue while you’re feeling more and more unconfortable. Being led by fear inevitably leads you down path you never intended to go down. If you want to change course, you have to release your fear first. This looks like naming it. “I’m afraid to be vulnerable with my husband because he may reject me.” “I’m afraid to say what I think about social justice because I’ll be labeled as liberal or judgmental.” Sometimes just naming your fears to yourself can be freeing.

2. Disobey that voice inside that says you “should _________”

In an effort to grow or change, we cut ourselves off at the knees and box ourselves in. One little life-hack I like to do is disobey that little voice. We all have the subconscious rules for ourselves- we can only speak for so long in conversations, we can’t disagree with someone, we aren’t the kind of person who speaks up for what we need. This can really begin to box you in. Try to disobey these rules sometimes and see how it feels! If your self-doubt keeps you from speaking up, try disobeying it. If you have a rule about how much you speak in a conversation, go on talking!

3. Know the difference between fear and wisdom.

Fear overgeneralizes, projects into the future (when we actually have no idea what the future holds), fear has a negative bias about the possibilities and our capabilities. Wisdom sounds like cautious consideration and openness. Wisdom does it’s due diligence but is willing to take risks. Wisdom is usually found by asking around, doing research, AND trusting your gut.Does this make sense? Does this hit home?

A little about me:

A little about me… I help women who feel boxed in by self-doubt, criticism and the expectations of others. Some women come to me burned out and wanting to understand where they went wrong. Sometimes women come in to process their past pain from church and religion- rejection, dark night of the soul, legalism, or doubt in God. It can be so difficult to even know what we need, let alone asking for those needs to be met. Many of my clients are trying to cope with depression or stress from this season of life. Sometimes we work on healing their past pain so they can grow and move on. More about me here.

I walk along side you through the pain and self-awareness into a happier more hopeful life.

I also have a side-project called Motherlift. I founded it alongside my Doula sister- Macy Morrow. Motherlift is an educational platform for mothers in every stage of motherhood. We help women from pregnancy through parenting cope with all the changes, chaos, and challenges that come with the role of motherhood. It’s a total blast! Check it out here.