Anxiety is a completely normal human reaction. It might be that we’re getting nervous about something new, or have that feeling of dread when there’s a particularly horrible task coming up that we have to deal with; we all get it. It can come in a number of ways and affect us all differently.
Our children will get anxious sometimes, too. A different situation may affect how they feel, or they start to worry about something else. Occasionally, this anxiety can be overwhelming for them, and they may need help. So what should you do as their parent?
What is anxiety?
This is when you start to worry, get nervous, or even fear a situation. Everyone will experience this as some point, and it’s only natural for it to happen.
An anxiety disorder is when you have an excessive amount of fear, worry, dread or nervousness, and these emotions happen too frequently, are too strong, are out of proportion and affect someone’s day-to-day life. These feelings can either build gradually or come on suddenly, and there may not be a particular cause for it to happen.
There are also physical symptoms associated with some anxiety disorders. Chest pains, headaches, tight muscles, vomiting, and having trouble sleeping are linked with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), while the symptoms can be sudden and intense with panic attacks. Those with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (ODC) have rituals to alleviate their worries and fears.
What can I do?
Talk to your child and say you’re worried about them and their behavior. You can then tell if there is a mental health issue that may need to be addressed. Open up to your child about how you feel about them, and they will be more likely to open up to you.
If you are about to embark on a trip, speak to your medical practitioner as soon as you can to see what options are available to you and your child. If they need medication, make sure you have a letter from your healthcare practitioner outlining their condition, treatment, and required medication - ideally in a language that will be understood at your destination(s). Have enough medication for your trip, or contact a doctor where you’re going to see if you can get a prescription. Also check if there are any restrictions on the medicine in the countries you’re traveling to, and what conditions are covered on your travel insurance.
It may be that therapy is the best option for your child, which may be tricky if you’re out on the road. Keeping up with any coping practices your child has been advised to do will help with their anxiety, but it may be that they will need further therapy once you return home. Residential treatment programs may be an option. Have a look at igniteteentreatment.com to see what’s available, and how they can help your child.
What if we’re already traveling?
If you can, contact your family doctor for advice. They will help you with what you can do until you return home.
You can alleviate your child’s anxiety by trying to maintain a routine each day. This may be more difficult if you don’t stay anywhere for more than a few days at a time, but there are other ways you can support your child aside from this. Make sure they eat and drink well, take regular exercise, and see if they will try practicing breathing techniques. You can also encourage them to speak to you regularly about their feelings (or to have a diary, if they prefer), and to keep in contact with friends and family at home.