My brother calls me the Queen of Chaos.
He may be right; I do thrive on it. But even a queen has her down days. I have been known to drag myself from room to room, head in hands, shouting, “Argh! I’m so stressed out. Don’t ask me to do one more thing!”
If I could put this argh-attack to music, I’d probably win a Grammy for best melodramatic performance in a pop song.
The stress is usually a result of bad time management and over-commitment and the upshot is almost always a whopper of a cold sore.
I know I’m not alone. Most people experience some anxiousness and stress on occasion. A little of it even can be healthy.
But for some, stress and anxiety are disabling. Anxiety is a feeling of worry or fear about real or imagined circumstances.
While a little can move a person to take action, too much can have a far more negative or even paralyzing effect.
Anxiety becomes a problem when it is excessive and begins to interfere with everyday living.
Children, even very young ones, are not exempt from anxiety, and a certain amount is typical at different developmental stages.
Babies between seven and 11 months will often seem anxious around unfamiliar faces. Most children experience some separation anxiety between one and two years in age. Anxiety at these stages is an indication of normal cognitive development.
Fear of perils such as “monsters,” the dark, storms, and animals is common and mostly short-lived in childhood. The fears should settle with reassurance and over time.
But what happens when the fears don’t subside? Young children may not have the ability to describe their feelings, or the skills to cope with them.
Symptoms of abnormal anxiety are often different in children than those seen in adults. To compound the problem, symptoms will vary for children of different ages and temperaments.
Generally speaking, if an anxiety is not typical for the stage of development, has been going on for a long time, isn’t improving, and is causing problems, then professional help might be useful.
Signs of excessive anxiety may include regression, such as not using the toilet even after being diaper-free for a significant amount of time; experiencing ongoing nightmares or night terrors; behaving compulsively (checking under the bed or in the closet over and over at bed time); becoming clingy or crying easily; expressing unreasonable and ongoing fear about something; or experiencing recurring stomach aches, headaches, vomiting, or diarrhea with no apparent cause.
My old doctor was a very wise man.
At one point, when I was panicking about a perceived health issue, I asked him if it was normal to feel this way.
He responded, “I don’t know. It’s your body; is it normal for you?”
The point is, parents are the experts on and advocates for their own children. They are more likely to be aware of what’s happening in their child’s life and know if a behaviour is unusual for their child.
If issues arise, they can investigate further, perhaps talking to daycare providers or preschool/kindergarten teachers to see if the behaviour is continuing in those environments.
It is heartbreaking for parents to see their child suffering from excessive anxiety, but recognizing the effects of it is a first step to managing it.
Check out the Ridge Meadows Early Childhood Development Committee website at www.ridgemeadowsecd.com for links to information about the Ministry of Children and Families child and youth mental health team, as well as other mental health resources for children.
– Kathy Booth is a local writer addressing the importance of early childhood development, and the work being done in Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows, and with Katzie First Nation.