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Freaked Out Part I: Understanding Kids with Anxiety

by James Lehman, MSW
Freaked Out Part I:  Understanding Kids with Anxiety

This is part one of a two-part series on anxiety in children by James Lehman, MSW. In the first article, James will discuss how to understand and identify anxiety in children. Next week, he'll give you some constructive advice on how to help children manage anxiety successfully.

Be alert to the fact that when you ask your child what’s wrong, the reason they might give you will not always be the source of their anxiety.

For many children, riding the school bus, taking a test, or even going to school can trigger some anxiety. Social activities, such as birthday parties, sleepovers, dances and dating, can also make kids feel anxious. Personally, I think severe anxiety is one of the worst feelings in the world. It can be disabling. Kids have described it to me as feeling like there’s a brick in their stomach, as if they’ve done something wrong or something bad is going to happen. Many adolescents describe it as feeling like something is eating at them and they can’t stop it and it scares them, or like they're waiting for the other shoe to drop.

As a cautionary note, it needs to be stated that when dealing with severe anxiety, be sure to have your pediatrician rule out any medical issues that may cause anxiety to make sure it's not a problem with physical origins.

That being said, anxiety is the emotion we experience in a wide variety of ways when we’re uncertain about what’s happening, or we feel like we can’t control the events that are about to happen. Fortunately, most adults learn to manage this anxiety in a way that allows them to function effectively and live successfully in society.

Related: How to manage your child's acting-out behavior.

Anxiety is really the 21st Century word for fear, although people don’t always associate it that way. Survival is probably our strongest primary instinct. And our instincts produce energy in the form of feelings. One way to understand the feeling of anxiety is to think of survival as a “fight or flight” mechanism. Survival is the engine, anxiety is the gas—it gives you the energy to actually do the fighting or running. For people who have problems managing anxiety, it feels like their bodies are revving up, but there’s nowhere to go. That’s why they talk about feeling nervous, jumpy, uptight, or out of control. The problem is, most kids don’t know how to process their anxiety, so it goes unchecked. And many times, it ends up feeding on itself and building.

How Anxiety Shows up in Your Child’s Behavior
You can often see from children’s behavior the level of anxiety they’re experiencing and how effectively they’re dealing with it. Younger kids will basically say, “I don’t want to,” or “I don’t like that,” or, “No!” Sometimes, they’ll identify a source from their dreams, nightmares, fantasy life or cartoons. Picture the infamous “boogeyman.” Sometimes they’ll name something such as school, the bus, a person, or a room in the house, without being able to identify why. (It must be noted here that parents have to be very cautious when children show anxiety about a person, place or thing, and can’t verbalize why. Experience shows us that kids become very anxious, but emotionally shut down when confronted with the thought of being with an abusive person or going to a place where they’ve been physically or sexually abused.)

With many children who experience anxiety, you’ll also see a marked difficulty in their ability to sit still and pay attention. You might also see withdrawal: your child may become isolated as they see the world as an increasingly threatening place. Be alert to the fact that when you ask them what’s wrong, the reason they might give you will not always be the source of their anxiety. This is because they don’t know how to define or express it, and they haven’t developed the internal problem-solving skills to deal with it yet. Most kids don’t know how to say, “I’m really afraid and I don’t know why.” In fact, when kids and adults experience anxiety, they often don’t know what’s causing it and will find some person, place or thing to blame it upon.

Related: How to parent calmly when your child pushes your buttons.

I want you to understand, when I use the word “anxiety” here, I’m talking about problematic anxiety. So while anxiety has a whole spectrum of ways that it’s expressed, how do we know when it’s harmful or disabling? Make no bones about it: it’s harmful when it triggers inappropriate behaviors, or when your child becomes too anxious or afraid to attempt (or complete) an age-appropriate task, or participate in age-appropriate activities. So if your child is refusing to go to school, unwilling to take tests or do normal childhood activities, you need to rethink how you’re both dealing with the problem.

Here’s How to Understand Anxiety
Here’s a way of understanding how feelings of anxiety affect people differently and what range of behaviors you might see.

Let’s say there are four adults standing in a long supermarket line. All of them are behind schedule and are feeling anxious, which is leading to impatience and frustration. But they deal with it in very different ways. The first says to herself, “It looks like I can’t help being late. There’s nothing I can do about it. I guess I’ll just have to explain it when I get to the doctor’s office. They’ll understand.” The next person decides, “I better get back to work, I can shop later. It’s not worth being late.” The third person might turn to someone and say, “Is today a holiday? It seems awfully crowded.” But the fourth person shouts out, “What’s going on here? Move it along! I’m late for a doctor’s appointment. I can’t stand here all day!”

As you can see, all of these people are afraid of being late to something that’s important to them, but they manage their anxiety in very different ways, and their actions appear to have very different outcomes. One person leaves, one person decides it’s OK to be late, one person processes the situation with the man standing next to her, and the last person starts shouting and blaming others, which is the least effective way of dealing with the problem. It’s important to note that they probably all wound up being late, but three of them dealt with this situation in a way that didn’t trigger severe agitation or lead to inappropriate behavior.

Our goal for children is for them to learn the skills to manage their anxiety in a way that is effective. We measure effectiveness here by how much they let the anxiety disturb them and how much it affects their functioning.

Three Kids, Three Reactions to Anxiety
Now, let’s look at three kids who have to ride the bus to school. All have anxiety about riding the bus for different reasons.

Zachary, the first child in our scenario, resists getting out of bed and getting dressed. If you could listen in on his thoughts, you’d hear him saying, “I don’t want to get up. I don't want to go to school today. I don’t want to ride the school bus. Will doesn’t like me. He teased me yesterday and my friends all laughed at me. They don’t like me anymore.”

When his parents come to wake him, the look on Zach’s face and tone of his voice communicate that there’s something wrong. But when they ask him what’s bothering him, he’s only able to say, “I don’t want to go to school!”

When his parents say, “But Zach, you’ve been doing so well. Yesterday you were saying how much you liked your teachers and friends. What’s wrong today?”

And he responds, "Can you drive me to school? If you drive me to school, I’ll be OK. I don’t like the school bus anymore.” At this point, he’s is probably saying to himself, “I can’t ride the school bus. Will is there. I don’t like the bus. I don’t like school.” He’s making the problem more severe by projecting how bad the situation will be before he even gets there. And he’s trying to solve the problem by controlling his environment externally—by getting his parents to behave differently. On some days, one of his parents may be able to drive Zach to school, and so he might proceed to get dressed, and he experiences that ride as the solution to his problem, although it's only temporary and he hasn't developed any skills to deal with the real problem.

Related: How to teach your child problem-solving skills to help their behavior.

The second child, Olivia, has the same thought, but her mother says angrily, “No, you have to ride the bus. Your dad and I both need to get to work, so we can’t take you to school today. I’m going to stand right here while you get dressed because I can’t be late for work.” What ensues is a passive power struggle in which Olivia is doing things slowly while her parents are becoming increasingly annoyed and frustrated.

All the while, the child may be saying things to herself like, “They don’t care about me. I can’t ride the school bus. Why don’t they just take me to school?” When the parent finally gets her into the kitchen for breakfast, she may refuse to eat or only want very sugary things, unconsciously sensing the sugar may give her more energy to deal with her feelings and the situation. She might be thinking, "If I’m slow enough, I won’t have to ride the bus because it won’t wait for me," but she may not be conscious of that plan. To her, it just feels like the most natural thing to do is slow down, because she doesn’t want to go to school. In a sense, she’s digging her heels in.

When the school bus arrives, she goes to her room to get her sweater, but she doesn’t come out. Her parents yell, “Come on Olivia, the school bus is waiting.” The bus honks, and her dad goes out and holds up his hand, and then goes to look for Olivia. Her parents find her in her room lying on her bed. Imagine now that she’s saying things to herself like, “I can’t ride that school bus. They don’t understand. I’m not going today. They can’t make me.” Eventually the bus leaves. Her parents are frustrated and angry with Olivia and embarrassed by her behavior. They yell at her for behaving so poorly and punish her with no TV for a week. Her dad grudgingly takes her to school in the car, lecturing her all the way, while Olivia gives him the silent treatment. Inside, at this point she might be saying something to herself like, “I don’t care what they think. I didn’t have to ride the school bus, and I’m glad.”

In these two cases, neither child had the skills to identify the source of their anxiety and process the problem in a way that let them deal with their fear of riding the bus effectively. One avoided the problem by manipulating his parents into taking him, while the other one shut down and hid from the problem by not meeting her responsibility of getting on the bus, thereby invoking her parents’ anger, and getting a pretty severe consequence. In either case, the source of the fear is the same: They’re not going to be safe sitting in the back with Will. This fear is both real and valid, but in both cases, the kids managed their anxiety in a way that didn’t help them solve the actual problem. And that problem is that they have to ride the school bus to school and find a way to keep themselves safe from the bully. For many kids with anxiety issues, it’s passive resistance, not aggressive resistance. You’ll see them refuse to get dressed in the morning. Or the bus comes and they won’t get on. Believe me, it will manifest itself in a million different ways.

Related: How to help your child identify his triggers.

Now imagine a third child named Will. He has the same problem with anxiety and he says to himself, “Kids don’t like me. They think I’m fat and ugly. They don’t want to be my friend. I don’t want to ride the bus with them. They call me names and tease me.” Will fights with his parents and he pulls the covers over his head and refuses to get out of bed.

His parents, who have dealt with his high level of resistance in the morning for years, have learned that when they bribe him, he’ll respond. So his mother winds up saying, “I’ll give you those Pop Tarts you wanted, but you have to be in the kitchen by 7 a.m.” Even then it’s a challenge to get Will up. His siblings have learned to stay away from him. Finally, he eats the Pop Tarts and goes back to his room. His parents are really stressed out by his behavior now because it’s starting to affect their jobs. Their employers have made comments about them being late, so now they’re taking turns with Will and saying they’ll giving him an extra snack of cookies just to get him on the bus.

So Will finally gets on the bus and sits in the same back seat as usual. Although he’s also overwhelmed by anxiety, he deals with it by picking on the other kids. Will’s strategy is to get the other kids before they get him. He calls them names and says, “You’re fat, you’re stupid.” He kicks kids under the seat and pokes them. When they complain to the bus driver, Will’s response is “I was only playing, can’t you take a joke?” The bus driver has to intervene and say, “Calm down, Will.” Will has given the driver some lip and back talk. It’s not at crisis level yet, but the driver is wondering what he’ll do if Will hits someone or breaks the rule and gets out of his seat and comes toward the front of the bus.

Will’s method is yet another way of dealing with anxiety. He becomes the bully. He hides his fear by attacking others, and strikes out at other people to hide that fear. His reaction is part of the fight or flight mechanism we discussed earlier. The first two kids are using flight, by avoiding the source of their anxiety. This boy, Will, is using fight as his strategy. He tried flight, by attempting to stay in bed, but once he couldn’t resort to flight anymore, he started to fight. In the end the old saying seems to be true: Bullies, after all, are really just afraid.

In all of these cases, the parents were left to wonder why their children were upset, anxious or afraid.

So Why Do Kids Hide Their Anxiety from their Parents?
Why do kids often hide what’s bothering them? It’s important to remember that even at an early age, children are unconsciously afraid to let their parents down. And they’ve learned that when they don’t do what’s expected by their moms and dads, a look of anger, distress, disappointment, unhappiness or pain appears on their parents’ faces. Although kids may not know consciously what those looks mean, they learn from a very early age how to associate looks and words with feelings. For instance, if a child is with his mother and they both see a cockroach in the kitchen, a look of disgust might come over the mother’s face. She may make a sound that is filled with anger or disgust, or say something like, “Oh, no!” The child then associates that facial expression with something that is awful or painful. The next day, when he falls down and cuts his hand and it bleeds badly, he might again see that look on his mother’s face and hear her say, “Oh no!” And he may sense that his mother is angry or disgusted with him.

That’s why you’ll often hear kids say, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” when they’ve hurt themselves, because their parents’ facial expression and tones of voice communicates that they’ve done something really wrong. In the future, the child might see that look on his mother’s face when he won’t clean his room or when she’s arguing with his father. He then associates those looks and words with earlier experiences, and senses he’s really hurting her. This kind of learning is completely appropriate, normal and healthy. In fact, it is so powerful that adults, without knowing it, spend their whole lives reading people’s faces, tones of voice, and words. In fact, studies have shown that kids get more out of communication from the look on the person’s face and their tone of voice than from their words. Believe me, the numbers are astounding. In one significant study, kids got less than 10 percent of the meaning from the words that were used by the adults, while over 90 percent of the meaning came from the looks on the adults’ faces and their tones of voice. So what happens is, as kids develop, they try to hide their emotions or hide what’s going on unconsciously, because they realize that it will bring that look of distress back to their mom’s or dad’s face. One of the emotions they try to hide is anxiety, and this explains why children will often keep it from their parents.

Related: How to stop the anxiety cycle in your family.

As parents, we often pick up on our child’s distress, but don’t know how to help them manage it. In the second part of our series on anxiety, I’ll offer you some tips to help teach your child how to solve the problem of anxiety when it overwhelms them. But keep in mind that parents very often need much more training on how to help their child manage their anxiety than is available in these articles.


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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."

READER'S COMMENTS

Hmmmm. Much food for thought here. Very timely. We were wondering what was going on with our "shy" boy, and why he's been acting out recently. It's not shyness, it's, most likely anxiety. This all makes perfect sense. I cannot WAIT for the follow up article. Thank you!

Comment By : mommywithsix

This sort of applies--but my 10.5 year old son has stopped having sleepovers for about the last 6 mos. and won't stay with anyone unless it is a family member and that is his stipulation. He will sleepover at a friend's house only if his little bro is with him. So I really need the info on how to help. Hope that comes in the next article.

Comment By : gmackie

It sounds like James has been evesdropping in our house! I'm looking forward to the next article to teach us how to teach our children some of those coping skills.

Comment By : witsend

I am dealing with a son that is 10 years old and has been having problems with anxiety since he was 4. It has been hard and because I suffered with anxiety myself and know how it feels, I feel terrible for him and also feel as though maybe I passed it on to him . My son has a terrible fear of something happening to me and we have a tough time getting him to go to school. He has been in therapy for several years know and it seem to be getting a teeny bit better. We have to remember as parents, that they can't help it and all their fears seem very rational to them. Much luck to you with children with anxiety. Don't wait to late to get help.

Comment By : GaMoM

Hi James, As a mom of a (now) adult child that was both bullied and the bully, this article makes a lot of sense. Parents need to understand how to effectively deal with these kids because the danger that is out there is that they end up hanging around the wronge kids and eventually get into drugs and a long list of painful outcomes. Sure wish we'd have had the Total Transformation program when Johnie was 10 as he is now the anxious adult standing in line and not knowing how to manage his problems.

Comment By : Broken Hearted Mom

Looking forward to the next article of tips to help our 14 year who has a lot of social anxiety issues.

Comment By : JThomas

My son was misdiagnosed with having ADHD the year he started school. Turns out the child's actions look similar however it was a major anxiety disorder. As a parent who watched my son go through torture for three years before a therapist finally suggested anxiety, I can say it is nothing to mess around with! The anxiety issues a child has can morph into self confidence issues not only socially with friends, but with the childs standing in his own family. I can't wait for the next part of this article to hopefully see alternative suggestions.

Comment By : 3kidringmaster

Wow! You hit the nail on the head! For those of us dealing with lots of anxiety issues in our house, where else can we turn for help outside of these articles? (You stated we would need more training than just what was found in these articles.)

Comment By : Desparate for Anxiety Training

Can't wait to read the next article. Sounds like we may be on the right track (finally) to helping my granddaughter deal with her anxiety problems (that I didn't know were anxiety until now.

Comment By : Greatful Granny

My 13yr old son has had anxiety disorder for years. Most days he holds it all in and then explodes when he gets home or when it is time to do homework. Although I am glad he controls himself at school, I feel like why does he only act this way at home? What are we doing wrong? He will only play with friends at our house, only have sleep overs at our house, and calls at least once a week from school saying he is "sick". I feel terrible when I make him stay at school, but if I let him come home he would miss way to often. Can't wait to hear tips!

Comment By : wthkmh

My husband and I have been struggling for over a year with our 9 year old son and his anxiety. We spent the last school year "in school" with him because he is so afraid he is going to die while we are not with him. We have started our second year "in school" again. This year is better but we are still having difficulty trying to get away from this and want him to have normal fun school days. We have been seeing therapists but any advice is helpful.

Comment By : jmmom

Can't wait for some tips on managing this. As an anxiety ridden child myself, I can't seem to help my daughter cope or provide her with coping skills. Thank goodness for James!

Comment By : Laura

This definitely hits close to home. My daughter has been exhibiting signs of anxiety ever since we moved back from being overseas. She recently mentioned that she feels embarassed when she has to call me to pick her up from school when she doesn't feel well. In fact, all of last school year she called almost every other week. I cannot wait to see what tips are going to be offered. Looking forward to them.

Comment By : Anxiously waiting mum...

My daughter is five and tells me that her tummy hurts when she has to stand too long or when she has to sit and color for an extended period of time. I think the "brick in the stomach" feeling is what she has as she often grabs or hits herself in the stomach when she is feeling this way. I want to find out early how to deal with this. I would also caution all parents who have kids that if they will not go to a sleepover respect their wishes. They may have had a horrible experience that they are embarrased about and do not want to tell you, or worse. When I was young I peed the bed at a friends house & refused to sleep over again. Last,teach your kids to "Cast your cares upon the Lord."

Comment By : A heart for children

wow you all have pretty much described my son to a T. all the way to attending school with him and those severe outbursts when he gets home to eventually not being able to get him out of bed in the morning. really came out in 3rd grade after my husband was hospitalized with an illness. most of 3 and 4 grade home tutored because he just couldn't handle school. has anyone tried any anxiety meds that may have helped. tried the course of ssri's but has bad thoughts when he takes them.he's 10 wondering if anyone has had any luck with actual anti anxiety meds, it's only the 2nd week of school and he's been out 5 days already.

Comment By : Bob

Is there any way to communicate with others who have posted comments on anxiety? I feel like I am the only one going through this with my son and nobody else understands. I hardly understand it myself. It would be helpful to talk to others with the same issues. Is there a anything?

Comment By : jmmom

* Dear jmmom: Thanks for your timely question. The good news is that we're in the process of setting up forums on Empowering Parents so our readers will have a chance to talk to each other about the different challenges they're experiencing with their children. Please stay tuned--we hope to have this on EP soon.

Comment By : Elisabeth Wilkins, Editor

this is scary, and relieving at the same time. i think this might be a problem for my 7yr old daughter. its a relief to have an idea of what is wrong but also scary because now im worried that my actions have possibily made things worse, or maybe i havent handled situations the right way. im really lost, im not sure how to get thru to her, and sometimes end up fussing then i feel horible. cant wait for the tips, and was wondering about therapy? i dont want to scare her by having her talk to someone she doesnt know, but things cant keep up like they have been going.

Comment By : concernedlovingmother

This article really hit home for me with both of my daughters. One suffers from anxiety quietly but usually will talk it over with me. These seem to be the normal issues that adolescents deal with. My other daughter has been diagnosed w ADHD and OCD. He anxiety has gotten worse over the last year. As I read above, she too is very afraid of something happening to me, so much that it's smothering at times. The fear of vomiting or others getting sick has been the worst of her anxiety and the longest lasting (5 years) Her therapist performed EMDR on her on and off for quite a while and this REALLY helped decrease the level of anxiety. My daughter has also started taking Prozac, and this too has helped decrease the level of anxiety, significantly. However, the anxiety is never gone. I really look forward to being able to correspond with other parents through a forum, to see what they have tried, what has worked and what has failed. I appreciate Dr. Lehman, Total Transformation and everyone that shares their own experiences here.

Comment By : kwhigam

You real hasve my childs number he is scared of everything going into rooms alone,outside alone, in the house alone, day or night,does not like to lat in bed alone has to have someone in the same room atleast. In a social setting gets very overwhelmed and acts out even something as simple as Church.

Comment By : dedededdo

I am so glad I read this article today and the responses. My 9 year old son was recently diagnosed with borderline ADHD. He is currently doing neurobiofeedback and has had some success with it. His behavior at school is so vastly different then at home that we are wondering what we are missing. Now I am wondering if there is more of an anxiety issue at school and that his "acting out" may be a result of it. I'm glad to see that others have the same concerns. I always feel like I should know how to make things better. The more we find out and try to help our son, the more questions I have. Thanks Dr. Lehman for giving us such helpful information.

Comment By : hopefulmom

I had no idea anxiety was a common problem. I thought my daughter was one of the "few". My 8 year old has within the past 6 months been unable to fall asleep. She has panic attacks at bedtime: nausea, vomiting, sweating, feeling of implending doom, and general hysteria. Last week she told me during one of these episodes that when "something bad happens at her dad's house she pushes it away, but when she comes over (to my house) it comes out." (her dad and I are divorced - he has primary residential and is an undiagnosed borderline personality) Here is the catch-22: If I take her for counseling he will find out and punish her for it. Even if I take him to court she will pay for this - What can I do?????

Comment By : Laura

I can't believe how many other kids are suffering! I've been a "worrier" all my life, and panic attacks run heavily through my family. I had a "breakdown" when I was 18, which triggered hellish panic attacks that lasted for years--until I finally took medicine over 10 years ago. We have 2 adopted sons--ages 13 and 11. The 11-yr-old started having nightmares a few years ago, and they were always about someone--usually me or his dad--dying. He's gotten to where he won't sleep in his bed because that's where he always has them. He doesn't have them when he sleeps on the couch. :( But he has panic attacks when we take a trip and sleep somewhere else. He finally told me about it, and I told him lots of people have those feelings--even I have had them. He just tells me (with a panicked look on his face), "I'm having 'the feeling'". I usually say something comforting and then help him redirect his thoughts. Sometimes even "deep breaths". he has friends stay over all the time, but he won't stay anywhere. I've tried to keep things calm and matter-of-fact with him, since I know that making a big deal out of it makes it worse. I've started giving him flax seed oil and vitamins. I've even bought an anti-anxiety herbal formula for him. I think it may be helping some. I look forward to a forum on this subject--it's obviously a big and common problem.

Comment By : jmjlori

Thank you all for sharing. My son has been diagnosed with ADHD/Bi-Polar I - Depression/Anxiety. There is hope. He was put on Cogentin/Resperdol and it is working. He has been able to go back to school after two months and he goes every where with me which was not the case before. He wants to work and do as much activities to keep him busy. It is hard to find things to do since he is a Senior in High School and about to finish. Unfortunately, he did not get to play sports because we wanted to concentrate on his school. A child needs sports and lots of friends to keep him occupied. Two things that might have added to the anxiety are divorse at early age, one parent has Bi-polar the other anxiety. I pray everyday for him and I to get thru this and parents need counseling as well as the child. Coping skills and breathing techniques are essential in the treatment as well. The anxiety medications worsen him so we are using express therapy, excerise and to keep him distracted from those bad thoughts that come and go. Good luck with finding the answers to this problem. I'm sure we will all get passed this soon. Attitude and possitive thinking always prevail.

Comment By : Mirame206

Very good article. My wife and I just had a meeting with our 6 year old's teacher today and she suggested that he may have anxiety issues. He is a very smart boy with reading and math skills beyond the first grade, but he shuts down when approached to try anything new, be it art, cutting, sports, academics. I also coach him in hockey and he is so off and on, yet when he sets out on his own to complete a task he usually exceeds expectations and "hates" losing at all cost, even to not participate for fear of losing or making mistakes. I think the teacher and this article just hit the nail on the head! I believe our son has anxiety issues over the fear of failure, hence why he "doesn't want to go to school" or "doesn't want to go to hockey practice". Our son's teacher always expressed that anxiety is more common than we may think, especially in a very fast paced world!

Comment By : Darren

I have a 8 year old whom will say anything to stay home from school. kicking and screaming at school. it takes 4-6 teachers to pull her off of me .. and takes all my energy for me not to ball my eyes out but i do. she has missed so many days of school because i cant sit there for 45 min while they peal her from me im allways so late for work im going to lose my job. She dosent listen to me at home when i tell her i need mommy time just to take a shower she will come to the door 5 6 7 times.. and dosent listen when i tell her to leave.. I need help please someone.. anyone

Comment By : Sheryl G

* To “Sheryl G”: Thank you for writing in to Empowering Parents. I am sorry your daughter is having a tough time going to school. How difficult mornings must be for you! It’s going to be beneficial to first try to find out what problem your daughter is trying to solve with this behavior. Ultimately, your daughter is trying to solve some problem with this behavior, such as trying to deal with some sort of school or separation anxiety, having a difficult time with another child in her class or possibly not getting along with the teacher. Finding out what problem she’s trying to solve or what she possibly may be gaining from the behavior is the first step in helping her come up with a more effective, appropriate way of coping with the situation. The article The Surprising Reason for Bad Child Behavior: "I Can't Solve Problems" gives useful tips on how to have a problem-solving conversation with your child. Something else that may be helpful would be to set up a reward or incentive plan for your daughter that focuses on her transitioning to school without an outburst. For example, maybe you could have her earn special one on one time with you after school by going to school in the morning without issue. You could spend time with her playing a game, completing a craft or doing another activity. A daily incentive is probably going to be more effective than a weekly or longer term plan because it allows her the opportunity to turn her behavior around and make a better choice on a daily basis. Even if she has a rough time today, she can still earn a reward tomorrow if she makes a better choice. There is a great article that gives clear, concise instructions for implementing a behavior plan, such as the one I’ve suggested above. You can find the article by clicking this link: Child Behavior Charts: How to Use Behavior Charts Effectively. It might also be helpful to check in with her pediatrician or primary care physician to see if there is any underlying issue that might be going on. The doctor could also have some ideas on how to address this behavior. We hope this has been useful for your situation and wish you and your family the best. Take care.

Comment By : D. Rowden, Parental Support Advisor

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