L: James, you mentioned accountability. Creating a culture of accountability. What does that mean? Can you explain that and how, what it means to parents and kids.
J: First of all, when we start with accountability, one of the things that I talk to teachers and parents about is creating a culture of accountability. And that culture of accountability occurs between two people. So when we talk about what’s on TV, what they’re learning in the movies, what their video games is, that, that’s fine. But the culture of accountability comes with, this is how I’m gonna talk to you and this is how you have to talk to me. This is what I’m gonna expect of you and this is what you can expect of me. That’s very clearly learned out. That you’re accountable for the way you talk to me and treat me. You’re accountable for your responsibilities and you can expect me to take responsibility to be accountable for my responsibilities. I’m gonna pay the rent, I’m gonna have food on the table, I’m gonna make sure that we have a place to live. You have to talk to me appropriately, you have to do your schoolwork and you have to learn how to solve life’s problems without hurting other people.
MG: I think it’s important to note James that a culture of accountability isn’t just a parent child thing. We even as adults need to be accountable; we are accountable every day to someone.
J: That’s right, well, I don’t think people are accountable to a culture. I think that that develops between people. Between individual people and groups. So even personal relationships and work relationships.
J: Work. I’m accountable to that job. I’m accountable to my role in that business. I’m accountable to that business. They’re gonna pay me, that’s what I expect of them, they expect me to do the role that they defined for me. They also expect me to do it with some quality and some efficiency.
MG: So as a parent, what you’re setting your child up for by expecting him to be accountable to you is the whole mindset that you will always be accountable to someone. This is a coping skill. This is a problem solving skill you have to learn.
J: Absolutely. Look, when you hold your child accountable, when you develop that culture of accountability, you as a parent have a responsibility to teach that child to acquire the skills he’s gonna need to be able to be accountable. People who can’t be accountable for their homework disrespect other people. People who can’t be accountable for their behavior turn it around and challenge you and act out. So when you’re having a culture of accountability, there’s a two–way thing. I expect you to do the right thing and you can expect me to teach you how to do the right thing.
MG: So my job as a parent then is to set specific standards, to set specific goals, to set attainable landmarks that a child can say, if I do this, I become accountable. If I do this, I’m behaving responsibly.
J: Yeah, it’s not only setting goals. It’s giving the skills to reach the goal. So let’s say I’m a parent and my goal is that you’re gonna sink five throws from the free throw line in basketball out of ten. Well I just can’t put you up there with a ball and tell you do it, that’s my goal. I’ve gotta show you how to do it. I’ve gotta show you how you place your feet, how you place your arms. How you propel the ball. I’ve gotta spend some time practicing with you. I’ve gotta show you how to do these things and I’ve gotta practice them. So it’s not setting the goals, it’s giving the kid the skills. Acquiring the skills yourself for an understanding of what it takes. Using the tools and using the skills.
James Lehman had a very personal understanding of kids with behavior problems. He displayed severe oppositional, defiant behaviors as a child and teenager, and became a Behavioral Therapist specializing in helping troubled children, teens and their families for 30 years.
Janet Lehman, MSW Child Behavior Therapist
Janet Lehman has over three decades of clinical experience working with out–of–control children and teens and their parents. Working in group homes and residential treatment centers, Janet helped children with serious behavioral disorders learn to get their behavior under control.
Enter your email address to receive our FREE weekly parenting newsletter
This is part two of a two-part series on anxiety in children by James Lehman, MSW. In the first article, James discussed how to understand and identify anxiety in children. In this second and last article, he will give you some concrete advice on how to help children solve the problem of anxiety by managing it successfully.
When people are anxious or afraid, they act in ways that are unpredictable. Kids, more than anyone, tend to act out their fears. Here’s one way of looking at it: you can tell what’s going on in a movie by how the actors play their roles. Kids act out feelings in the same way— but they act them out through behavior, because they can’t hold their emotions in. Some kids act out with hostility or aggression, because they can’t handle the often severe agitation that anxiety triggers. Some kids become more depressed and others exhibit more attention-getting behavior. Parents often learn to read their child’s behavior, looking for clues of what the problem might be so they can give them a solution.
Let me be clear: children will have to be taught the skills to identify, articulate and manage personal and social situations which make them anxious or afraid. If your child demonstrates behaviors that you think are triggered by anxiety, you must try to teach him the skills he needs to manage it in a healthy way instead of acting it out behaviorally, hiding out, or submerging emotionally.
So how do you help your child overcome anxiety? There are seven key things I believe parents should try to do to help their children:
7 Ways to Help Your Child Manage Their Anxiety
Role play with younger kids: Look at pictures or magazines together and make up stories. Try asking questions like, “Look at this child. She’s smiling. What do you think she’s smiling about? Do you think she’s going to have an ice cream cone? Or do you think she knows her mommy’s proud of her? If you could ask her a question, what would you say to her?” Then switch to another photo and say, “Now look at this child. He’s frowning. Do you think maybe he’s afraid of something? Or maybe he didn’t do his homework. What would you tell him to help her solve the problem of not doing it?” And then reason it through with them. Kids are not abstract thinkers, so you have to make things real concrete for them. One of the ways to make it real is by using pictures. You can teach kids how to talk to themselves in a positive way through this method as well. For instance, you can show your son or daughter a picture of another child who looks very confused or frightened, and say, “What do you think that child is saying to herself?” Often, your child won’t be able to respond to this type of question because it’s too abstract; kids are more black and white. So if they can’t think of anything, you can say something like, “To me, he looks afraid because he doesn’t know what’s going on.” Or, “I think she’s sad because they forgot her birthday.” Ask your child which of those two emotions the girl might be feeling. If your child says, “I don’t know,” say, “Take a guess. I think she’s either feeling happy or frightened. Which one do you think she might be feeling? You’re a great guesser. Take a guess.” And after they try, you can say, “That’s great. If I was her, and I was feeling sad or afraid, I would say things to myself like, ‘I can handle this, I just have to take it easy and I’ll figure it out. I’ll talk to mom or dad about it.’” Understand that rehearsal and repetition are the major contributors to the effectiveness of this strategy. Kids need to rehearse things all the time. Often when you see kids talking to themselves (or with younger kids, to an imaginary friend), they’re rehearsing or rehashing a previous experience. Repetition and rehearsal are really helpful tools for kids who are learning to become independent. And remember, independence is the best remedy for not acting out anxiety and fear. People who think and act independently also feel like they can make good choices about whether or not to take flight, sit tight, or get ready for a fight.
Train children and adolescents in positive self-talk: Parents have to learn how to teach their kids how to talk to themselves positively. Parents often put a lot of effort into teaching kids how to talk to other people, while putting very little thought into teaching their children how to talk to themselves. It just never occurs to them to do so. But just as kids have to learn how to speak to others, they learn to talk to themselves in either a positive or a negative way. Often kids will overhear adults saying something out of context, like, “They said he’s doing poorly in math,” and what the child says to himself is, “I’m doing poorly, they’re angry at me, there’s something wrong with me.” When a kid is involved in negative self-talk, these sentences are repeated over and over in their heads. On the other hand, when kids develop the skill of positive self-talk—sometimes independently, sometimes taught by their parents through role play and pictures—they learn to talk to themselves more positively. They are able to say, “It’s OK. It’ll be all right, I can handle it.” They can say this because they’ve learned how to say “It’s OK and I’m OK” when they’re feeling insecure or uncertain about themselves. “I can handle it,” is probably one of the most powerful thoughts a human being can have, but few people realize it. And “I can handle it” is the key to positive thinking and positive self-talk.
Teach kids how to come up with phrases to articulate their anxiety. As they mature, train kids what to say to identify and articulate what makes them nervous. Ask them, “Do you ever get jumpy or afraid?” Use real or made-up social situations to share some of your thoughts and feelings. Say, “You know, I think our neighbor Mr. Smith doesn’t like me because he thinks I’m stupid. But I’m really smart, and I know it. So when I see him, I say to myself, ‘I’m really smart. Maybe Mr. Smith can’t see it, but I’m really smart.’” And then say, ‘If I have to, I say, ‘I’m really smart’ over and over again until the ‘stupid’ feeling goes away. And then you ask your child, “Does anyone think badly of you?” Your child may say “No, that’s never happened.” You might continue, “If anything ever happens like that to you, what could you say to yourself? You could say, “I’m a good kid, I’m OK.” And repeat it over and over to yourself.’” You can also ask them, “Are there people you think don’t like you or don’t want to be your friend?” When you talk to kids about these situations, don’t use logic to probe their answer or analyze the situation. Be much more concrete. Logic will often confuse kids and make them feel like they’re stupid. Instead, during casual conversations, comment about other adults that don’t like you. It’s OK to say, “Mrs. Smith doesn’t like me because she thinks we have a better house. And when I see her, I just tell myself, ‘I can’t change what she thinks.’” Then I say, “Hi, Mrs. Smith, how are you doing?” I can’t change what she thinks, and I usually say that to myself as I’m walking away.” This is one way of helping your child see what pushes their anxiety buttons, and also teaches them a way of releasing it by saying, “I can’t change the way someone else thinks.”
Process it with them. Start asking "What" “When” “Where” “Are” and “Is” questions. “Is there anything wrong with the school bus? What is it?” Don’t ask them, "Why don’t you want to ride on the school bus?" Say, “Are there other kids bothering you? Are you sure? Is there something they’re saying or doing? Because if there is, we can help make that better. Kids don’t have the right to bother other kids.” You can also say, “If you don’t have to ride the bus, what’s going to be different, what’s going to help you?” Work through it with your child. Reassurance is key. Remember to say, “If there’s something going on, let me know, we can face anything together.” The next time that you see they’re upset, try saying, “Are you OK? How can I help? Can I help you with this problem?” Don’t ask them why. Often when kids are asked why, they automatically sense they’ve done something wrong. Remember, they’re rarely asked why when they’ve done something good. Kids are not asked, “Why did you clean your room?” In most cases, kids don’t know how they feel, and I’m not sure it would help them if they did. In my experience, knowledge of how someone feels rarely changes behavior.
Get as Much Information as Possible. Talk to your child’s teachers about what they see regarding your child’s level of anxiety. Ask questions like, “Have you noticed if my son has any problems with other kids? Does he appear to be nervous? He seems very worried about grades and if the other kids like him. Do you see any of that getting in his way at school? What do you see?” All kids have anxious thoughts, but some kids learn to manage them better than others at an earlier age. Get some objective feedback. Watch your child play with other kids. How does he or she handle things? Look for his or her ability to interact freely and deal with other kids with various behaviors. Is your child able to resolve problems with other kids successfully, and is he or she able to act independently as well as within the group?
Reward kids when they learn to do things that are hard for them. Remember, self esteem comes from doing things that are hard for you. Self-respect comes from doing things that you can respect. Reward your child and be sure to label what they did right in order to earn that reward. Don’t assume kids can associate the reward with the task, even if the task occurred a couple minutes ago. Also, it’s important not to always reward with things. Time spent with you reading a book or playing games or going to the playground can be tremendously rewarding.
Honor Your Child’s Choices When They’re Not Ready or Capable. Maintain a realistic view of your child to continually determine whether what is being asked of him or her is in their developmental range and possible for them to do at all. Often, if kids don’t want to get involved in something, such as team sports, the parents should talk about it with them and process it with them, but ultimately respect their child’s decision. Parents must learn to come up with compromises or give their child a choice of at least two things. A compromise is saying, “Well, let’s try it for a month.” Or “let’s try it three times, and then you can decide.” Or you can say, “You can do A, or you can do B, but you must do one of them.” Kids should not be forced to do the things that they don’t have the internal skills to manage. Think of it this way: It’s not good parenting to throw kids into the water before they can swim, even though many people swear by that. He may very well swim to the side and save himself. But remember this, he hasn’t learned to swim by that, he’s learned not to trust you and that you can’t hear him. Parents do it because they’re impatient, annoyed, or embarrassed by their kids. In the same way, don’t force them to do things they’re not ready to do.
Will My Child Ever Be Able to Manage his Anxiety Effectively?
In my experience, all children can learn to manage anxiety, if their parents possess or can learn to develop the skills necessary to teach them. Remember, it’s very difficult for children to mature emotionally in areas where their parents are still immature. There are several ways that kids can learn how to deal with it independently. The first is that they grow up and become more mature, and frankly, immune to many of the things that used to hurt them. When rubbed enough, what once was a blister becomes a callous.
That being said, when kids experience moderate to severe anxiety, it does take training to help them learn how to manage it. Some kids only need these tools during a transition period, such as when they move to a new school or are in the midst of grieving a lost relative. Many of them will be able to learn ways of coping with it and move on with their lives. But in some kids, anxiety can become very powerful and sometimes blossom into something incomprehensible and crippling. Remember, many adults who are identified as having anxiety or panic disorders began the thinking and behavior that led to that early in childhood.
We are lucky that in this day and age there are many tools parents can learn how to use and give to their kids that can help their anxiety; these tools need to be applied thoroughly and consistently. That’s why it's very important to begin getting help very early with your child if their anxiety appears to be getting more severe. It will enable them to learn to apply the tools and techniques they’ll need to manage this level of anxiety into their adolescence and adult life, if necessary.
Remember, anxiety becomes a problem when it causes problems. Many, many kids say they don’t want to go to school or ride the school bus, and it doesn’t trigger inappropriate behavior. And they may tell you what’s going on, or they may not. Either is normal and natural. Certainly, all kids will feel anxious, and this feeling may be something so intense that it interferes with your child’s functioning. It may happen periodically as they grow, when they’re going through a developmental change or a new experience or situation, like going to a new school, moving to a new town, or dealing with the birth of a sibling. Although these kids may need some help during the specific episodes, they generally can learn how to manage the situation. On the other hand, if the level of anxiety is so strong that it interferes with your child’s abilities to function in a social or classroom situation at an age-appropriate level for an extended period of time, then I think you have to take it very seriously indeed.
Be sure to have your pediatrician rule out any medical issues that might cause anxiety to make sure it’s not a problem with physical origins.
Anxiety is a very real, normal and natural part of child and adolescent experience and development. The best way for you to deal with this anxiety is not through probing for emotions or logic, but by learning concrete solutions to the problem of managing anxiety so it doesn’t interfere with your child’s functioning. Parents can acquire this knowledge through their own family situations, their life experiences, their education, or specific parenting training. In any case, it’s critical for parents to understand the roots of anxiety and learn how they can help their children manage it.
James Lehman, MSW was a renowned child behavioral therapist who worked with struggling teens and children for three decades. He created the Total Transformation Program to help people parent more effectively. James' foremost goal was to help kids and to "empower parents."
Not sure if my 12 year old stepson suffers from anxiety as such, but I am certain that this is part of the problem that he suffers with sleep walking and talking alot. He has been doing this since he was a toddler. If he has had a bad day for example if we have scolded him for doing something he shouldn't have. Most of the time he ends up shouting at the top of his voice, as he doesn't accept any answer that isn't in his favor and besides having to have the last say, will often try to argue. We nip it in the bud by sending him to his room when he becomes this disrespectful. Nights like these, and many times even when we haven't had any arguments with him in the house - he will sleep walk and sleep talk that evening. It can become extremely disruptive for our household. He has on numerous occasions set of our alarm by walking through the house and talking to himself (eyes wide open) and having a full conversation with us (not that the conversation makes any sense). He has even woken his baby sister up (now 3 yrs old), by walking into her room and opening and closing her cupboard doors. To be quite honest I get quote freaked out. When I do find him roaming the house, I try to take him back to bed gently, but since he is "awake", he will look at me, and pull away, or start physically fighting with me when I try to nudge him back to bed. Last year he even gave me a blue eye. Could he have some sort of anxiety problem? When we talk to him about the incidents the next day he has no memory at all, and sometimes thinks we are making stories up to embarress him.
Comment By : Freaked out
Dear "freaked out," As the mother of a troubled 18 yr old young man, the similarities of our stories scare me. I pray you will heed my advice and seek medical & or psychological attention for your son immediately. We began having trouble with our son (also a step-son) at 12, and I kept telling myself it was a phase and that he would grow out of it. But he did not, it only intensified. His disrespect and refusal of authority grew more serious year after year. At 17, after losing 3 jobs, being in drug rehab and on criminal probation for battery, he was finally diagnosed with ADHD and ODD (oppositional defiant disorder). Unfortunately we were told it was too late to correct the ODD, and he will probably suffer from the effects of it for the rest of his life. You still have time to correct your son's behavior--please do not ignore the warning signals like I did. Also, there is a very good book about raising boys--"The Good Son" by Michael Gurian--it has helped me immensely with my youngest son.
Comment By : concerned_mom
My daughter was diagnosed with Selective Mutism at 4 years old. She is better now at age 12 but still suffers some anxiety, mostly when having to go to school or on certain outings. We have never found a specific cause for the anxiety. If we don't know the cause, can we ever expect her to be free of it? I feel it will be something she will just have to decide on her own that she won't give into the anxiety any longer.
Comment By : M&M
Dear Freaked out,
I can't comment on the behavior issues during the day, but I can share a little on the sleep walking. I have suffered my whole life with night terrors. It started when I was a very young child. I would freak out my sister and often wake up the whole house by suddenly without warning screaming at the top of my lungs. We're talking a blood curdling scream so bad I would hurt my throat. It almost always occured during the first hour or two of falling asleep, before I had entered a deep sleep. Most of the time it was just the scream, but sometimes I would be physical. One night I damaged our window blinds by grabbing them and twisting them, which also cut my hand because they were aluminum. My family and now my husband has attempted to talk to me when this happens, but I am not really awake and have no memory of the conversation the next day. Unfortunately, members of my family have also joked about it the next day, which has always hurt my feelings terribly, because to me it's not the least bit funny. It's embarrassing, and I hate that it ever happens. To this day, I cannot put my finger on exactly why this happens. I believe that it happens more often when I am having severe stress. It has decreased dramatically since I had my son 7 years ago. Perhaps because I am mentally more focused on him now vs. myself? It also seems to happen more when I am overtired and not getting enough sleep. Regardless, you definitely need to speak with a doctor/counselor about your step-son. It sounds like he could use some counseling. Hang in there.
Comment By : Sam
Dear Freaked Out -
Not sure if your son is having night terrors, but my daughter did. I advise you to talk to your son's doctor, we were able to correct the night terrors. We could predict when she would have them, so per our doctor's recommendation, we woke her up - (lights on, out of bed, fully awake) fifteen minutes prior to when we thought she would have a night terror. She had to stay awake for 10 minutes, then we put her back to bed. We did this for seven days in a row, she has never had one since and that was seven years ago! Worth trying. Good luck.
Comment By : Becky
My daughter, 16, was recently diagnosed with severe anxiety. She has always been very quiet and shy but it has gotten worse as she's gotten older. This year, she was missing so much school I asked her pediatrician for a psychiatrist for follow up. Her new Dr. diagnosed her and - since she really does get physically ill in the morning before school - recommended that she apply for "homebound" school while she works with the Dr. in overcoming this. The Dr. said she would use therapy/medication and that she has done this with other patients successfully in the past. We had to do something otherwise she would fail school...she's very intelligent and artistic - in honors courses with mostly A's on her interim, in spite of missing so much school. Has anyone else ever worked through such issues with their child and, if so, have any advice?
Comment By : Mom, looking for support
Dear "Mom, looking for Support" My son is now 13. He was diagnosed with anxiety when he was 9. He would also get physically ill before school. He was put on medication (Lexapro) and we found a wonderful therapist who was able to help him through Cognitive Behavior Therapy. She taught him ways to calm himself with breathing techniques and changing his thought patterns. She helped him make note cards to carry in his pocket with reminders of ways to calm himself. The school counselor is also a great resource. My son will go to her office if he feels anxious or overwhelmed during school. He knows that he can go to her office at anytime during the school day. If he is having a bad morning he will go sit in her office until he calms himself with his breathing and is able to go to his classroom. We have seen much improvement with the anxiety. He is able to control it much better on his own with the Cognitive Behavior Therapy. He is going to school everyday and doing activities that he had totally stopped doing.
Comment By : CRS
I am having some major difficulties with my 10yr old son. He has always been a bit defiant, but lately - he will not listen and screams at the top of his lungs at everyone including my parents. He gets great grades in school and shows no opposition at school, only at home and with close relatives. He has just begun giving us trouble at bedtime, which takes about 2hrs after we tell him that its time for bed. He has has night terrors for several years and we have managed them (until he outgrows them per the Dr.) My biggest problem is his defiance and behavior towards us (his parents) and our relatives. Any suggestions?
Comment By : Jen
* Jen: It sounds like you are dealing with some frustrating issues. The first step here is to sit your son down and talk about his defiance at bedtime. Start by sharing your observations and asking a “what” question. For example, you might say something like “I’ve noticed you’ve been pretty defiant at bedtime lately. You don’t get ready for bed when asked, and you’ve been getting up a lot during the first couple of hours. What’s going on?” You’re basically getting your son’s perspective and discovering what problem he is trying to solve. James Lehman felt that kids act out and get defiant because they don’t know how to solve a problem. Once you understand what the problem is, the two of you can talk together about some possible solutions and then choose one. Maybe he’s not tired because he’s sleeping in too late or not active enough during the day, or perhaps he doesn’t want to miss out on something. Choose one solution to try and then use a daily incentive system. Each night your son gets into bed on time and stays in bed, he can earn a little something extra—extra time doing an activity he likes, extra time with an adult, or maybe going to a place where he likes to play. An important note: if the problem here seems related to the night terrors, we recommend checking back in with the doctor just to re-evaluate and see if there is anything else that can be done to help. We wish you and your family luck as you continue to work through this. Take care.
Comment By : Sara Bean, M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor
My 9 year old daughter was recently diagnosed with Selective Mutism. We were told by her therapist that overcoming this is a long, slow process. If anyone has any helpful ideas/suggestions on what we can do to help her in overcoming this, I would love to hear from you. Thank you.
Comment By : vwlisa
* To ‘vwlisa’: It sounds like you’ve got a lot going on right now. We are not experts on Selective Mutism here and would encourage you to lean on your daughter’s therapist for support and information about the best techniques to help your daughter through this difficult time. I did find this website that looks like it could be a helpful resource to you, however: www.SelectiveMutism.org. We wish you and your family luck as you continue to work through this. Take care.
Comment By : Sara Bean, M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor
Thank you for these great posts and all the information. My 12 yr old daughter just came to us last night to tell us she is feeling depressed and sad a lot and doesn't feel like she is fitting in. When we talked about how most kids are feeling anxious about middle school she said "this is different." I tried to probe for more information and used logic which did not help. I am very appreciative of the information in these articles. She has asked to talk to a counselor and we are currently setting that up for her. It's hard not to feel panic and anxiety myself about this and am very reassured by what I read here.
Comment By : rebecca
My 13 year old daughter was diagnosed with anxiety and mild depression, but it doesn't "look" like the anxiety you've described above. Hers is often accompanied by feeling sick, a severe headache, "feeling weird" etc. and it causes a huge scene. Our pediatrician doesn't think there is anything physically wrong with her. When she's having anxiety or a panic attack, she cries out loudly to me in desperation "Mom, help me, do you hear me? Help me!!" I have tried helping her by giving her a hug, suggesting deep breathing, leaving the room to calm down, laying down, etc. But she yells at me and says that none of my suggestions work and that I'm not listening to her. It's a scary and frustrating situation and she is clearly not herself when she's having these anxiety or panic attacks. She is being weaned off Zoloft right now (it helped, but she said she didn't like how she felt on the med and doesn't want to take ANY med) and is feels very strongly about not going to counseling (we tried and she just completely shut down - with a couple of different counselors). She is so resistant to any of the help we want to give to her. What else can I do??
Comment By : Frustrated and Feeling Helpless
* To ‘Frustrated and Feeling Helpless’: It can be so challenging when you do everything you can to help your child and it is met with nothing but resistance and blame. It’s great that you have sought local support for your daughter. You might try offering her a weekly incentive for continuing counseling, for example extra time on a privilege after she goes to an appointment. It might be helpful for you to go on your own to learn some techniques that might help her. That way you can talk about some calm-down strategies at a time when she is calm and come up with a plan for what she will do next time she panics. Ask her to come up with some ideas of her own and then choose one. Then in the moment, remind her of what her plan was. You can offer incentives for her to try a new calm-down skill as well. Do your best to stay calm and not take her behavior personally. We wish you luck as you continue to work through this. Take care.
Comment By : Sara Bean. M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor
My four year son asked me,”Mommy, why am I not brave?” on our way to school. It has been three weeks since the new school year has started. This school year he only needed one day to cry out his anxiety and vomit, on his first day of school . He was already comfortable with the school routine but when I am the one sending him to school, he started to show lack of confidence to join the class. He usually goes to school with his nanny but at times I would be the one dropping him off. He does have some anxiety episodes to new places and new school year. When he is anxious, he would feel the urge to poo and vomit. Last school year he always goes to poo before going to class for a few months and on an off during the school year. I am glad this article shares the tools to help him practice to overcome his anxiety. I hope by next school year, when he enters Primary school, he will be able to cope with the anxiety. Cross my fingers!!
I am a little concern though, since he has a younger sister who has the opposite personality as him, tends to get comments from the grandparents as the bravest girl. I’m afraid he would be hurt by such comments.
Comment By : jstaMom
my five year old just started kindergarden, and is taking the bus, and during the week he as a sore tummy, and weekends he is fine, in the beginning he would have fits, now he crys, and says his days are long, he's afraid of getting lost, he doesn't want to take the bus, its stress, but how do i help him overcome his fear of school and all new things?
Comment By : Donna
* To Donna: It is heartbreaking to see your young child anxious and fearful as he is starting to attend school. It is hard enough as a parent to have your child begin this new chapter in life, and watching him get stressed over riding the bus and attending class doesn’t make it any easier. It may be helpful to talk with him about what is hard about going to school or riding the bus. It sounds like he is afraid of getting lost and having a tough transition to longer days. We recommend talking with your son about what would make it easier for him to go to school each day. For example, it might be sitting in the same seat by the driver on the school bus each day, or taking a stuffed animal to remind him of home. You can try role playing some of these solutions with him at home so he feels more comfortable when it’s time to ride the bus or go to class. Talking with his teacher or the bus driver about possible solutions may be helpful as well. I am including a link to an article you may find useful as you work your way through this challenge. Take care. Young Kids and Back to School Anxiety: How to Shrink it Down to Size
Comment By : Rebecca Wolfenden, Parental Support Advisor
Our daughter just began 1st Grade, and a terrible storm is gathering in our lives. We live in Germany, where children attend kindergarten for 3 years. For the past two, she has had bouts of crying and screaming, misbehaving, and refusing to go to kindergarten, saying she's scared. After a fairly happy, but short-lived beginning to 1st grade, it has fallen apart. In kindergarten we could allow her to stay home, but no longer. My wife took her to her third day of school crying and screaming, and left her there in that condition. She never stopped. She won't do her school work. I know I haven't been the best father for her - I believe I've been too harsh in trying to deal with her behavior issues at times. Out of sheer frustration, I've screamed, kept her in her room, spanked her, ignored her, tried to be gentle, but nothing works. I want to help her, and fix the problems I've either caused, or made worse. The root of the behavior problems seems to be anxiety issues - to include a phobia of vomit which causes major issues. We don't know where to turn anymore. The visits to a therapist haven't helped. Sorry for the long post, we're at the end of our rope. Thank you for any help.
Comment By : ericg
* To “ericg”: I am sorry to hear your daughter is having a difficult time transitioning into the 1st grade. It can be frustrating and worrisome when you’re not sure how to effectively help your daughter when she is struggling. I can hear your concern around how you responded to your daughter’s behaviors in the past. It can be difficult to know how best to help a child who is struggling. As a parent, you do the best you can with the tools you have. It’s great you recognize that certain responses, such as spanking and ignoring her, may not be effective when dealing with behaviors that may be rooted in anxiety. It could be helpful to talk with her pediatrician about what is going on to rule out any possible underlying issues, such as the anxiety and phobia you mention. Her doctor would be in the best position to determine if there is anything going on other than difficulty transitioning to a new grade. Her doctor may also be able to direct you to local supports that may be helpful for your family. We wish you and your family the best as you continue to help your daughter through these challenges. Take care.
Comment By : D. Rowden, Parental Support Advisor
My daughter is 8years of age and her attention seeking behaviour is sprialling out of control. Recently she stole money from my purse, when confronted about it, she denied it, but later she admitted it and said she was sorry. I am worried that she is suffering with anxiety issues, as she's a sensitive girl and when I try to talk with her she explodes like a whirlwind. I took her to the doctors about my concerns and they thought it was sibling rivarly. I've done the incentives and given special time, now I'm completely exhauated and do not not know what to do next. Any help or suggestions would be gratefully appreciated.
Comment By : Michelle C
* To Michelle C: It is overwhelming when your child’s behavior appears to be out of control and you feel as though you have tried everything as a parent to rein her back in. We are encouraged to hear that you took her to the doctor to be checked out-that is a good first step that we highly recommend whenever parents feel there may be something going on with their child. It is important to keep in mind that frequently, kids act out because they have ineffective problem-solving skills. Having a problem-solving conversation with your daughter, coupled with consequences and incentives as appropriate, can do a lot to turn your daughter’s behavior around. For example, you may ask her what she was thinking when she decided to take money out of your purse, and what she will do differently the next time she is in a similar situation. I am including links to some articles you might find helpful. Take care, and we wish you the best as you continue to work through this with your daughter. Defiant Child Behavior: Is Your Child's Bad Behavior Escalating? How to Get Your Child to Listen: 9 Secrets to Giving Effective Consequences
Comment By : Rebecca Wolfenden, Parental Support Advisor
Responses to questions posted on EmpoweringParents.com are not intended
to replace qualified medical or mental health assessments. We cannot diagnose disorders or offer recommendations on which treatment plan is best for your family. Please seek the support of local resources as needed. If you need immediate assistance, or if you and your family are in crisis, please contact a qualified mental health provider in your area, or contact your statewide crisis hotline.
We value your opinions and encourage you to add your comments to this discussion. We ask that you refrain from discussing topics of a political or religious nature. Unfortunately, it's not possible for us to respond to every question posted on our website.
If you like "Freaked Out Part II: How to Help Kids Manage Their Anxiety", you might like these related articles: