Bedtime Anxieties

Bedtime anxieties are common and occur for many reasons.

If your child suffers from bedtime anxieties, consider the following tips:

Fear of the Dark is Common and Normal
Children are afraid of monsters, shadows, robbers and all kinds of things that go “bump” in the night. Here are a few things you can do to help them settle:

  • Try Bach Flower Remedies. For vague fears like fear of monsters or the dark, use the remedy “Aspen.” (Add 2 drops to any liquid, 4 times a day until the child is no longer afraid). For specific fears like fears of robbers or fears of being kidnapped, use the remedy “Mimulus.” For night-time panic attacks or hysteria, use “Rock Rose” during the day and “Rescue Remedy” at night.
  • Use “bibliotherapy” – that is, read bedtime stories or make up stories about hero-type children and grownups slaying monsters, being brave, overcoming challenges and otherwise solving problems. When children hear stories about small people conquering big challenges, they incorporate the message into their own self-concept. They come to believe that they are powerful problem-solvers, rather than helpless victims.
  • Leave the light on for your child as he or she falls asleep. If your child wakes up in the night, then it’s fine to leave the light on all night too.
  • If the fear persists, consult a child psychologist.

Fear of Bad Dreams
Children who’ve been suffering from nightmares and bad dreams sometimes don’t want to go to sleep – they’re afraid of having another bad experience. Try to arrange a consultation with a mental health practitioner. A child psychologist will be able to help your child learn tools for ending the nightmares and coping with the fear of them.  Getting professional help is absolutely necessary if your child’s bad dreams are happening as the result of truly frightening life events that the youngster has experienced. For instance, if the child is having nightmares after being bullied at school, or being abused by an adult, or being in an accident or natural disaster – seek professional psychological help.

If your child’s bad dreams are not caused by some terrifying or upsetting life events, you might try some “self-help” techniques first, before seeking professional help for the child. For instance, you can give the child Bach Flower Remedies for a short while to see if that helps solve the problem. Consult a Bach Flower Practitioner to get the most accurate guidance. If this isn’t possible, try giving the child Rescue Remedy before bedtime. If this doesn’t help, try giving 2 drops of “Agrimony” in liquid 4 times a day and see how that goes. Another technique that you can try, is to have the child describe his or her bad dream. Then help the child tell the story again, with a new, much better ending. Have the child tell you the new dream over and over – maybe twice a day for a week or so. See if this helps end the fear. Finally, experiment with “crystal healing.” Go to a rock & mineral store and buy a small piece of amethyst for your child to hold at night. Tell the child that the amethyst can help make bad dreams go away. See if this helps your youngster. If it does help, it really doesn’t matter whether the help came from the placebo effect (just believing that it would work) or because amethyst can actually prevent bad dreams!

Children and Teens can Suffer from Anxiety Disorders
During the daytime, everyone is busy. Although both children and adults can be anxious during the day, they can be even more anxious around bedtime. Defenses fall away as we get ready for sleep. Those who are anxious by nature, will find that anxiety rises as the mind and body begin to relax and get ready for sleep. At this point, children and teenagers may be so overwhelmed with anxiety that they can’t sleep alone in their beds or their rooms or they can’t fall asleep or stay asleep. Some children and teens start to ruminate – they think and think and think about everything under the sun. Or they start to worry. Or they just feel vague unease. Or they begin to feel symptoms of panic. Different kinds of anxious feelings require different interventions. It is best to have your child’s anxiety treated by a qualified mental health professional like a psychologist.or psychiatrist. If the anxiety is mild, you might try some self-help techniques first. As above, you can consider Bach Flower Remedies. Try to find a Bach Flower Practitioner to prepare a remedy bottle for your child. Alternatively, your child might respond well to EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique). There are many therapists who can teach this technique to you and your child and there are also excellent on-line resources and books where you can learn the technique yourself. Children can also learn simple versions of Mindfulness Meditation that help ease anxiety. Find a teacher who works with young people or find a psychologist who practices Mindfulness Based Psychotherapy or Mindfulness Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (MBCBT).


Human beings have fears. Some fears are healthy and protective – such as the fear one feels in an isolated dark alley. This kind of fear causes one to be vigilant – extra cautious to avoid harm.  However, some kinds of fear simply pour stress chemistry into the body with no constructive purpose. For instance, when one feels terror while sitting in an airplane, there is no constructive action that can be taken – the fearful person cannot jump up and steer the plane! Instead, he or she sits helplessly while experiencing rapid heartbeat, racing pulse, shortness of breath, light-headedness and other signs of fight-or-flight activity.

To help your child deal appropriately with fear, consider the following tips:

Use Emotional Coaching
Emotional coaching is the naming of feelings. When a parent names a child’s feeling, it helps the child trust his own inner experience. This makes the child emotionally smarter in the long run, fostering “emotional intelligence.” A child needs to trust his own fear so that he’ll protect himself appropriately. For instance, all the kids might be having a bicycle race down the middle of the road. A child who trusts his fear can say, “I’m not doing that – I don’t feel safe.” A child who doesn’t trust his own fear tends to ignore the little nagging feelings of discomfort. Later, if something bad happens (Heaven Forbid), the child would think to himself “I should have listened to myself – I knew I shouldn’t have done it!”

Hearing a feeling named accurately also helps to release the feeling. Suppose a child doesn’t want to go sleep in a dark bedroom alone. The parent can acknowledge the child’s feeling BEFORE deciding how to solve the problem. “You’re not comfortable alone in your room?” or “I know you’re scared to be in your room alone,” lets the child know that the parent understands what’s going on. The parent is not judging the child for being fearful. In fact, in naming the feeling, the parent is modeling acceptance of the feeling as it is. This helps the child be less fearful of his fear (or other negative emotion). The parent can then decide how to help the child. “Would it help if we left the door open/left a small light on/come and check on you in 15 minutes?” It doesn’t matter what solution the parent finds – the conversation always starts with naming the child’s feeling.

Give Your Child Tools to Manage Fear
When a child has a fear or phobia, he needs to know how to turn off the fight-or-flight chemistry in his body. For instance, a child who needs to have a needle or who encounters a dog in the street, needs to be able to calm himself down. You can take your child to a mental health professional who can treat the fear (cure it or reduce its intensity) and/or teach the child techniques for managing the fear. Or, you may be able to teach some strategies yourself. Slow breathing is a simple way to help the body calm down. Ask the child to notice that he is breathing and to say to himself as he breathes in, “breathing in and calming down.” As he breathes out, ask him to say to himself, “breathing out and calming down.” (You can make up any phrase to say on the in and out breaths). Alternatively, take a little time to learn how to use EFT (emotional freedom technique). There are lots of instructional videos on the internet. This simple technique can help manage fear and phobias and in some cases, make them go away altogether. There are therapists who can treat your child with this intervention and/or show it to you and/or your child. Or, you can teach your child yourself – this accupressure (tapping) technique is easy and meant for self-help. Another tool in the fear-management toolbox is Rescue Remedy. Available at healthfood stores worldwide, this harmless, water-based remedy helps turn the fight or flight process off – sometimes in minutes.

Assessing Fear
If your child’s fear does not respond to home treatment, do consult a mental health professional. Fear can stem from trauma, stress and anxious genes. Some fearful conditions are based in biologically based anxiety disorders such as GAD (generalized anxiety disorder), OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) or social phobia. A psychologist or psychiatrist can diagnose and treat all sorts of fears.

Preventing Fear
When your child has mild worries or fears, he may respond to naturopathic interventions. Sometimes you can help a child overcome the fearful tendency by using Bach Flower Therapy. Consult a Bach Flower Practitioner or read up on the remedies yourself. These harmless, water-based remedies can help ease the fearful tendency out of a person over time. Another approach is cognitive-behavioral therapy or other forms of psychotherapy that treat fears, anxieties, and related emotions. Again, if fear is serious or unremitting, do consult a mental health professional for assessment and treatment.

Children’s Emotions After Divorce or Separation

Parental divorce or separation is a painful process — for everyone concerned. No amount of careful preparation, heart-to-heart talk, and therapy can make it less agonizing— just more manageable. After all, a loved one is technically saying goodbye. Even if everyone remains be a part of each other’s lives after the marital dissolution, the reality is: nothing will ever be the same.

In order to help children deal with the impact of divorce or separation, it’s important that parents know the roller-coaster of emotions kids go through during the process. The following are some of what children feel after divorce or separation:

“I knew the situation was bad, but I wasn’t aware it was that bad.”

Kids are often blindsided by their parent’s decision to divorce or separate. To protect children from family problems, parents tend to keep their kids out of the loop. Consequently, the news of finally ending the marriage comes as a big shock. And even if some outward sign of fighting exists, kids being naturally optimistic often think that the fighting is temporary and can be resolved. Even in homes where divorce is threatened openly and frequently, children often “get used” to the threat as just a common part of fighting – they can still be shocked when parents finally act on their words. Children who may not be so shocked are those who have experienced parental divorce before, and have some idea of what is going on.

Anger is a normal emotion felt by children undergoing parental divorce and separation. The anger can be directed towards one particular parent, the parent whom the child feels is to blame for the marriage not working out. The anger can also be directed to both parents; kids may feel that mom and dad didn’t try hard enough to save their family. In some cases, children may just be angry at the situation. They empathize with their parents well enough, but they would understandably rather that they don’t suffer such a major loss.

Children do blame themselves for parental divorce or separation. Because of the old philosophy of “staying married for the children’s sake,” kids may have the idea that parental love of kids should be enough to keep a couple together. Thus, when a marriage breaks down, kids feel like they failed in providing their parents a reason to try harder. Older children may blame themselves for not doing enough to save the marriage — maybe they’ve already noticed that something is wrong but didn’t say anything about it. Younger children may think that the divorce or separation is directly or indirectly caused by their behavior. It’s not unusual, for example, for a pre-schooler to irrationally conclude that the divorce or separation pushed through because parents are always fighting about their performance in school.

The source of security in a family is the parents’ stable marriage. A divorce or separation, therefore, can be quite unsettling for a child. Where would the family live? How will they earn enough income to support everyone? Would we have to live with somebody new? And are there any more jarring changes coming our way? There are so many question marks after a divorce or separation that being afraid is just an expected reaction.

And of course, kids feel sadness and even depression during this stressful time. There are many losses that come after a divorce or separation, some of which can never be recovered. Understandably a new living arrangement has to be negotiated, and it’s possible that a child will have to give up proximity to a parent once all the legalities are finalized. Siblings may even end up living in different residences. There are also intangible losses, like the loss of dreams about the family. Sadness is a natural part of grieving for a loss, and is a normal reaction among children during parental divorce or separation.

Dealing with Children’s Feelings
The key to helping children with their feelings about divorce is to let them have their feelings. Don’t try to cheer them up or talk them out of their negative emotions. Doing so may cause the feelings to go underground where they might fester, show up as depression or anxiety later, re-route to physical aches and pains or manifest in various types of behavioral challenges. Letting kids be appropriately upset is the healthiest way to help them feel better faster. This is NOT the time to show sympathy by letting them know that YOU also feel scared, mad and sad. Save your feelings for your meeting with your therapist or for discussion with your adult friends. Your kids have already lost one parent; they must not lose another. They really need you now and even though you yourself may be going through intense emotional challenges, it is unfair to unload that onto your children. They will feel that they have to be strong and help YOU or they will feel that they don’t want to add to your burdens by sharing their real misery. What they need from you now is a listening ear and a good model of coping. When they see that you are NOT falling apart, it will give them hope that they will get through this too. If you are, in fact, having a very hard time, seeking professional counseling will help both you and your kids.

Child Worries About Health

Worrying about one’s health is common. In fact, a certain amount of concern about one’s personal well-being is healthy and necessary. Without it, a person might come to neglect his or her body, mistreating it or ignoring important warning signs of disease. However, some people are overly worried about physical health, panicking over every little bump and rash, assuming that the end is near. The tendency to worry excessively about minor symptoms is a form of anxiety that some children and adults live with daily.

How can parents help children who worry too much about their health? Consider the following tips:

Stay Calm During Illness
Children take cues from parents regarding the seriousness of a situation. It is important for parents to show concern when their child gets ill, but not to go into panic mode for every new symptom that comes up. A child may internalize their parent’s distress, whether the distress is spoken or communicated non-verbally. To help reduce the likelihood of your child worrying excessively about health matters, try to maintain a calm and controlled disposition in the face of physical symptoms.

Don’t Theorize Out Loud
Similarly, parents should try to keep their suspicions to themselves. Parents can sometimes be prone to imagining the worst when a child gets ill. However, verbalizing fears within earshot of a child can do more harm than good.

When a Family Member is Ill, Clarify if the Illness is Contagious or Not
Kids can suffer excessive worry about their health after watching a family member go through a serious medical condition. For instance, children in a household where there is terminal illness may wonder whether they themselves will have a similar condition. Talk to your child about what is happening and welcome your child’s questions and concerns. Clarify that the sick person’s illness is not contagious. Leaving things to a child’s imagination is a dangerous practice, as children often draw incorrect conclusions that cause them needless suffering. By contrast, simple explanations and accurate information help to reduce anxiety.

Let Your Child Know What “Good Enough” Health Care is
Excessive worry about health can lead to compulsive habits regarding fitness, cleanliness and hygiene. For instance, a child may start exercising excessively or begin a food regime that is extreme in some way. Explain that good health habits are desirable but moderation in everything is a sign of good health itself and that extreme behaviors are reason for concern. If necessary, suggest that a professional consultation may be helpful in determining if the child’s behavior is within the normal range or if it is resulting from some sort of anxiety. If you feel at all concerned that your child is engaging in strange health regimes, at least arrange for a medical or psychological consultation on your own in order to get a reality check and know how to proceed.

Helping Your Fearful Child
A child who is afraid of illness (but not highly anxious) can usually be helped by simple interventions. For instance, it may be sufficient to just teach correct thinking. Parents can offer helpful messages like, “just do your best and if you happen to get sick, you’ll take your medicine and you’ll be better in a few days” or “we all get sick sometimes and this helps the body exercise the immune system to keep it strong” or “we can handle each situation as we come to it” or “people can deal with every kind of problem in life, including even serious illness.” A child can benefit from being told stories about courageous people who overcome adversity. Basically, we want to help our children feel that they can face the minor and major challenges of life, including health challenges.

Help Your Child with Bach Flowers and/or EFT
You might also find that the Bach Flower Remedy Mimulus helps your child overcome the fear of illness. When Bach Flowers are working, you should see improvement over the course of a couple of months and possibly even sooner. (If there is no progress, be sure to try another intervention, including seeking medical advice and assessment.) Give 2 drops 4 times a day until the fear is no longer present. Also, you might teach your child EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique). This self-help accupressure tool is explained on the internet and in books. It can help remove the fear that a particular set of symptoms indicates life-threatening illness. When EFT works, the fear literally disappears as the child worries about it while tapping on certain points on the body. Many therapists use EFT in their practice to help people with all sorts of fears so you can also take your child to an EFT practitioner.

Helping Your Anxious Child
If your child is anxious about health issues, however, simple positive messages and home treatments will not be enough. Health anxiety is a type of anxiety disorder. “Hypochondriosis” is the official name given to people who fear that every minor symptom points to a major disease. A person who has anxiety about illness may be inappropriately vigilant. Every small bodily change becomes a danger signal: this rash means deathly illness, this small bump must be cancer, this headache is surely a tumor and so on and so forth. Because our bodies always have various minor symptoms (warmth, itchiness, digestive issues, skin discolorations and so on), a person with illness anxiety can be in a nearly constant state of fear of being ill. A “hypochondriac” constantly seeks reasurrance from medical professionals, but never really believes them. Although hypochondriosis has been described as a chronic, lifelong condition, there are people who have been helped considerably. If your child’s fear is interfering with his or her happiness or if it seems excessive to you, do arrange for a psychological assessment. Early diagnosis and treatment is always the easiest and best route to take.

If you feel that your child’s worry about health issues is excessive and if your child has not improved when you have used the strategies above, then consult a mental health professional for further guidance.

Child Worries About Safety

Children often worry about their safety in this world. Whether they are concerned about bullies, try robbers, cialis kidnappers, tadalafil natural disasters or any other threat, their fear can be disruptive to day-to-day life and routine. For example, if your child is worried about his or her safety at school, you may find it hard to convince him or her to go there! Or a worry about safety at home may cause your child to want to sleep in your room at night. Whatever the case, you’ll likely want to reduce your child’s worry about safety as quickly as possible – both for his sake and yours. Your child is struggling and you are too; anxiety interferes with normal living.

If your child worries about his or her safety, consider the following tips:

Try using Emotional Coaching
If your child is worried about his or her safety, try using emotional coaching. In this technique, the parent names the feeling that his or her child seems to be experiencing. To a child concerned about his or her safety, you may say things like, “I know you’re worried that you’re not safe in this neighborhood.” or “I know you don’t want to walk to school by yourself because you’re scared of bullies.” Your acknowledgement and acceptance of the child’s true feelings, the way he or she experiences them, can help your child let go of those feelings a little. Additionally, being non-judgmental and accepting when listening to his worries can help strengthen the parent- child bond. Don’t try to change the child’s perception of a fear or worry (i.e. by saying “I know you’re afraid of your safety even though it’s irrational to be afraid.”). The goal is to show that you are taking him seriously and you respect the way he feels.

Talk about Safety
In today’s day and age, with crimes and criminals rampant throughout the world, it can be difficult to shield your child from news on such topics. Instead of trying to shelter your child from all topics that might worry him, talk to him. Ask him to tell you what he is most afraid of (i.e. perhaps he is afraid of being kidnapped or murdered, or perhaps he is worried about a parent being hurt or killed).  Intense fears are common and normal in young kids. Being able to articulate them can take much of the fear away. Use Emotional Coaching (naming his feelings) and Validating (acknowledging how the feelings makes sense). Then, give your child both information and anxiety reduction strategies (see below). Some helpful information you can provide includes offering some sense of statistical probabilities of experiencing robbery or other crimes and showing him just how unlikely a breach of his safety is. Other information you can give him, depending on his age, is how to dial 911 for emergency help, how to hide if necessary, how to reach a safe adult and even how to defend himself in applicable cases. Rather than being frightening, this kind of information can reduce helplessness and increase a sense of self-confidence and ability to deal with frightening things.

Use Bibliotherapy (read stories)
Check your local library for age-appropriate books and movies that highlight children’s abilities to courageously and creatively face challenges and overcome difficult situations. Such stories may reduce a child’s sense of helplessness and vulnerability and empower him or her with a greater sense of self-confidence.

Be Careful Not to Reinforce Fears
Avoiding fears only makes them worse.  Letting your child sleep in your room is not the correct treatment for fear. The goal is to have your child overcome his fears, not be shielded from them. Avoidance actually INCREASES anxiety whereas confronting the fear tends to decrease, or even, cure it. In addition, refrain from giving your child’s fear a great deal of attention. This can accidentally reinforce his fears. Instead, give the minimum give attention that is necessary.

Teach Strategies to Cope with fear
Show your child how to use Positive Imagination.  Negative Imagination involves making mental pictures of scary things happening. Positive Imagination, on the other hand, involves making positive mental pictures with happy outcomes. For instance, instead of worrying about a plane crash, the child can imagine landing safely in the new location and having a wonderful vacation. In addition, you can teach your child how to calm his or her nervous system with breathing techniques. For instance, instruct your youngster to think the word “In” when he’s breathing in and to think the word “Out” when he’s breathing out. Focusing on the breath in this way for even three minutes, produces powerful anti-anxiety chemistry in the brain. Also, you might look into a fear-busting technique called Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). This is a simple form of acupressure that you can teach your child. There are lots of internet resources for EFT treatment of children’s fears. Finally, to reduce your child’s anxiety, teach him or her how to notice that everything is safe on a daily basis (i.e. he/she survives every night; his or her parents are alive and well; he or she isn’t hurt or injured etc…). This can help your child realize that he or she is currently safe.

Experiment with Bach Flowers
Bach Flower Therapy is a harmless water-based naturopathic treatment that can ease emotional distress and even prevent it from occurring in the future. For worries, you can give your child the flower remedy called White Chestnut. If your child experiences specific fears, such as fear of a bully or terrorists, you can use the remedy Mimulus. The remedy Rock Rose is used for panic. You can mix several remedies together in one treatment bottle. To do so, you fill a one-ounce Bach Mixing Bottle with water (a mixing bottle is an empty bottle with a glass dropper, sold in health food stores along with Bach Flower Remedies). Next, add two drops of each remedy that you want to use. Finally, add one teaspoon of brandy. The bottle is now ready to use. Give your child 4 drops of the mixture in any liquid (juice, water, milk, tea, etc.) four times a day (morning, mid-day, afternoon and evening). Remedies can be taken with or without food. Continue this treatment until the fear has dissipated. Start treatment again, if the fear returns. Eventually, the fear will diminish completely.

Consider Professional Help
If your child continues to worry about safety despite all interventions you employ or the worry interferes with sleep, it is best to arrange for professional assessment and treatment. Ask your doctor for a referral to a pediatric mental health professional.

Child is Worried About the Future

Children tend to worry a lot. Sometimes their worries are about specific subjects such as upcoming tests, viagra dosage changes in family life, thumb travel plans or world conditions. Sometimes the worries are less defined, viagra more open-ended. For example, worrying about what will happen in the future is this sort of vague worry. Children with vague worries can constantly feel unsettled and unsafe. For them, danger and disaster is always lurking. By definition, worries consist of scary and negative scenarios – all sort of unpleasant “what if’s.” A child whose imagination is filled with such troubling images is unable to fully relax and enjoy his or her life.

If your child worries about what will happen in the future consider the following tips:

Try using Emotional Coaching
Emotional coaching can help a child let go of his fears and worries. In emotional coaching, a parent names the feelings his or her child is experiencing. Let’s take the example of a child who is worried about what will happen when his mother goes to the hospital to have a baby. The child asks all sorts of questions: “Who will look after me?” “How will the babysitter know what to give me to eat?” “How long will you stay in the hospital?” “How will I get to school?” and so on and so forth. Before you answer the questions, you can provide Emotional Coaching, reflecting the child’s feelings back to him. “I know you’re worried about what’s going to happen when Mommy has to leave.” In your next sentence, you can begin to offer information: “I will give the babysitter all the instructions she needs.  When you acknowledge and accept your child’s feelings, it can help her to let go of them a bit. Show her that you take her worries seriously and that you are there for her. Be careful not to mock or ridicule her worries as doing so can be destructive to your child and your relationship with her. Don’t even discount worries by saying something like, “You worry too much!” or “There’s nothing to worry about.” By showing the child that her worries are not wrong or shameful, you are teaching her to be in touch with her true felings throughout life

Use Bibliotherapy (read stories)
In your local library you can likely find books or movies that highlight children’s abilities to courageously and creatively face challenge and adversity. Giving your child access to these resources can help her feel more self-confident and help her overcome her worries of the future.

Teach Strategies to Cope with Worry or Fear
Instead of letting your child imagine bad things happening in the future, teach her how to think positively. Show your child how to imagine a positive future with protectors, friendly lions or angels etc… Imagination is a powerful tool. Try to teach your child how to utilize it for staying calm and optimistic. In addition, teach your child calming techniques such as some simple breathing exercises. For instance, instruct your youngster to think the word “In” when he’s breathing in and to think the word “Out” when he’s breathing out. Focusing on the breath in this way for even three minutes produces powerful anti-anxiety chemistry in the brain. Also, you might look into a fear-busting technique called Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). This is a simple form of acupressure that you can teach your child.  There are lots of internet resources for EFT treatment of children’s fears.

Experiment with Bach Flowers
Bach Flower Therapy is a harmless water-based naturopathic treatment that can ease emotional distress and even prevent it from occurring in the future. For chronic worry, you can give your child the flower remedy called White Chestnut. If your child experiences specific fears, such as fear of a bully or terrorists, you can use the remedy Mimulus. The remedy Rock Rose is used for panic. For vague fears (such as worrying about the future), the remedy Aspen can help. Walnut is useful for children whose imagination runs wild after watching the news on T.V., seeing a movie or reading a book. You can mix several remedies together in one treatment bottle. To do so, you  fill a one-ounce Bach Mixing Bottle with water (a mixing bottle is an empty bottle with a glass dropper, sold in health food stores along with Bach Flower Remedies). Next, add two drops of each remedy that you want to use. Finally, add one teaspoon of brandy. The bottle is now ready to use. Give your child 4 drops of the mixture in any liquid (juice, water, milk, tea, etc.) four times a day (morning, mid-day, afternoon and evening). Remedies can be taken with or without food. Continue this treatment until the fear or worry has dissipated. Start treatment again if the fear or worry returns. Eventually, the fear or worry will diminish completely.

Consider Professional Help
If your child continues to worry about the future despite all interventions you employ, it is best to arrange for professional assessment and treatment. Ask your doctor for a referral to a pediatric mental health professional such as a child psychologist or psychiatrist.

Child Worries About Loved Ones

Children worry about all kinds of things. Some children worry a little about a lot of topics while others worry a lot about just one topic. A common area of concern is the welfare of loved ones. Children with this issue may worry about everyone in their family or they may worry about just one person. Children around the age of four often begin to worry about their parents dying. This is a normal developmental stage, as the child begins to understand the concept of death. Fears of loss and abandonment temporarily become acute. These feelings usually pass without parental or professional intervention within a year or so. However, some children continue to have intense worries about their loved ones long beyond the preschool years.

If your child worries about one or more family members, consider the following tips:

Use Emotional Coaching
If your child expresses worry often, respond with emotional coaching. In emotional coaching, you name the feelings that your child is experiencing. Even though it might seem that naming the feeling could make it worse, the opposite actually happens: naming a negative emotion helps to release and clear it. If your child expresses fear that you will die, you can emotionally coach him by saying something like, “It makes you sad to think about Mommy or Daddy dying.” The child will typically get a bit more sad when he first hears you reflect his feeling back to him. This is a healthy sign! It means that you have “opened the door” and now the feeling is flowing out. It is the exact opposite of “shutting the door” by telling the child not to worry about things. When a parent says, “Don’t worry,” the worry doesn’t get cleared out; it just stays buried inside and the child learns that he can’t tell you his true feelings. If your child starts to cry or show more upset when you name his sadness, sit quietly with him and allow the sadness to pour out. In most cases, after a few moments, the child will say something like, “But you’re not going to die soon, right?” At that point, you can agree that it is unlikely that you will die soon since most people die when they’re very, very old.  By acknowledging and accepting your child’s worries the way he experiences them and showing that you are not judging, correcting or discounting his worries, you can help him become emotionally calmer over time. Emotional coaching teaches a child that feelings pass quickly once you acknowledge them. It shows the child that YOU are not afraid to hear his scariest, saddest, most troubled thoughts. This helps him become much less afraid of his own feelings.

Having said all this, there is one caveat: after you have listened to a child express a particular worry a couple of times, move on to problem-solving. For instance, you might ask the youngster, “What will make you feel less worried about this?” You want to refrain from giving long, intense, nightly “therapy session” because excessive attention to worry can actually increase it! Give briefer and briefer responses when the same worries are repeatedly expressed and encourage more and more problem-solving and coping techniques. This becomes especially important if your child is suffering from obsessive worries that are expressed as repetitive questions. Instead of offering constant reassurance, make sure to use Emotional Coaching and check with a mental health professional to find out how to be most helpful. Parents can accidentally increase the obsessive tendencies of their child by continuing to offer reassurance

Provide Facts and Information
In addition to emotional coaching, give your child helpful information. Let him know, for instance, that most people die when they’re very old and the children are all grown up and married. Also let them know that when parents die young, there is always someone who will look after the children. This helps ease their fear of abandonment. If your child is worried about how you will cope with an illness, a divorce, a financial challenge or any other crisis that you may be dealing with, let the child know that you have resources. Give the impression (whether it is true or not!) that adults can deal with their problems, no matter what they are. Children are notorious for trying to “parent” their parents when the parents seem needy. This creates a serious psychological burden for the child, one that tends to leave its mark lifelong. Be clear that you are able to take of yourself and that your child has the important job of playing, studying and growing up.

Experiment with Bach Flower Remedies
Bach Flower Therapy is a harmless water-based naturopathic treatment that can ease emotional distress and even prevent it from occurring in the future. The flower remedy Red Chestnut can help those who often worry about their loved ones. Mimulus helps those who worry about specific bad things happening, like people dying, losing money or getting ill. Rock Rose is useful when a person has panic attacks. If a child is in the middle of having a panic attack, the Bach Flower prepared remedy called “Rescue Remedy” can help calm him down. Taken over time, Bach Flower remedies dissolve the tendency to worry. When receiving psychological counselling, people often find that Bach Flowers can help speed treatment along. You can mix several remedies together in one treatment bottle. To do so, you fill a one-ounce Bach Mixing Bottle with water (a mixing bottle is an empty bottle with a glass dropper, sold in health food stores along with Bach Flower Remedies). Next, add two drops of each remedy that you want to use. Finally, add one teaspoon of brandy. The bottle is now ready to use. Give your child 4 drops of the mixture in any liquid (juice, water, milk, tea, etc.) four times a day (morning, mid-day, afternoon and evening). Remedies can be taken with or without food. Continue this treatment until the worry has dissipated. Start treatment again, if the worry returns. Eventually, the worry will diminish completely.

Be Aware of your Own Behavior
Do you worry about family members? Does your child hear you express worry when you are talking to friends or relatives? Kids need to see adults face life with courage and optimism. They are always watching and listening – your worry is contagious. If you find you have a lot of fear or worry, get professional help for yourself. In this way, you’ll help your children start life with less fear and worry. Some people find that spirituality helps reduce fear. Having a concept of God, meaning and purpose (even to suffering) can help both kids and adults cope with life’s adversities. Let your child know that the grownups are grown up and know how to cope with illness, money problems and all other life challenges.

Teach your Child How to Work Through Anxious Feelings
Simple reassurance does not stop a child’s anxiety. In fact, frequent reassurance can reinforce anxious thinking. It is much more helpful to teach a child how to soothe her own anxious feelings. Activities that can help your child work through her feelings include:

  • Breath Work/Meditation – Have your child breathe in while thinking the word “in” and breathe out while thinking the word “out.” Repeat this exercise with the youngster until he feels comfortable with the technique (or until you fall asleep – whichever comes first!). Breathing in this way calms the mind and body. The more often it is done, faster and more powerfully it works. It can be used throughout the child’s life, reducing stress and anxiety and preventing dependency on drugs, alcohol, destructive habits and other dysfunctional attempts to feel better.
  • Positive imagery – Teach your child to think positively and imagine happy outcomes to situations instead of scary, negative ones.
  • Prayer and relationship with God – Religion and belief can be a powerful tool in helping to reassure your child. If you or your child is religious you can remind him that G-d is always with him to protect him and that he can always pray for help.
  • Engage in enjoyable activities – Enjoyable activities like playing with friends, riding a bike, reading, doing puzzles, playing on the computer or playing with toys can help your child take her mind off worries. Teach your child that SHE has the power to change a negative state of mind and mood. Show her how becoming involved in something enjoyable provides temporary relief from stress. Let her know that she can “worry on purpose” (see below) for a few minutes at pre-selected times each day, instead of worrying all day.
  • Writing down daily thoughts and worries in a journal – Articulating one’s thoughts (whether to another person or on paper) helps to get them out of the body. Writing worries down in a journal can help your child release his or her worries. This is one way to “worry on purpose” and can become a daily exercise to help clear the mind.
  • Watching worries – this is another way to “worry on purpose.” Teach your child to sit quietly, with eyes closed if he is willing, and worry. While the child is sitting and watching his worries come and go, he is developing and strengthening a calm part of the personality called “the witness.” This is the part of us that observes our thoughts, feelings and actions. Even though one part might be scared, the observer is neutral. By observing once a day, the calm observing part of the personality gets stronger and stronger and the child achieves a bit of distance from his own fears.
Consider Professional Assessment and Treatment
A small amount of worry about loved ones can be normal. However, when worry is accompanied by distressing physical symptoms and/or impairs your child’s day-to-day life, it may point to conditions such as GAD  (Generalized Anxiety Disorder) or OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder). Generalized Anxiety Disorder is an anxiety disorder in which a person frequently experiences excessive and irrational worry. In GAD, worry symptoms are often accompanied by a variety of physical symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, fatigue, restlessness, and sleeping issues. In Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), worry manifests as a combination of troubling fears and behavioral rituals to ease those fears. OCD can impair a child’s normal life and routine. In order to find out if your child is suffering from a psychological disorder instead of simple worry, seek professional assessment. These disorders respond very well to treatment and early intervention leads to the fastest cure.

Fear that Parents Will Die

“Please don’t go to work today. I don’t want you to get hit by a car.”

“I don’t want to sleep. What if you don’t wake up with me tomorrow? You can stop breathing sometime in the night.”

“I think something bad is going to happen. I can just feel it.”

Childhood fears and phobias are normal during the younger years; in the course of a child’s life, he or she will get afraid countless times. But no fear is probably as gripping or as anxiety-provoking as the fear that parents will die. Parents are a child’s entire world, and just the thought of losing one or both parents is too tragic to even contemplate.

But what can parents do? Of all the fears, this is one of the hardest to give assurance for — we don’t know what will happen to us tomorrow. But we can hardly let our child go on worrying about our health, safety or well-being 24/7. Not only will the fear paralyze them, it may also result in long-term issues in parental attachment. Children can become afraid of getting close to us because of the fear of loss.

The following are some tips in dealing with children’s fear that parents will die:

Try to Determine Where the Fear Started
Around four or five years of age, fear of parental death often surfaces. At this age, children begin to become aware of the concept of death and they often start asking about it or fretting about it in an almost obsessive way. Their concern normally fades away over a period of months with little parental intervention. Fear of parents’ death is sometimes triggered by an event that made children aware that people can die. Perhaps a classmate’s parent passed away. Or maybe there is terminal illness in the family. It can also be that your child saw a television program where the main character’s parent passed away, or there are news accounts of accidents and crimes. It’s important that you surface the cause of the fear and show that the odds of you suffering the same fate are low. Let your child know that people do die, but this usually happens when people are very old and the children are all grown up. One of the major underlying fears of parental death is the fear of abandonment. Letting children know that they will always be looked after by grownups if anything happens can help reduce the fear somewhat.

Allow Them to Talk About their Fear
Fear of parents’ death can’t be commanded to go away. Like other fears, it is best addressed by Emotional Coaching. Instead of concentrating on offering reassurance, concentrate on naming the child’s feeling and allowing her to just have it. For instance, if your daughter says, “I’m afraid you’re going to die,” don’t tell her “I’m not going to die.” Instead, name her feeling back to her: “That IS a scary feeling. You don’t want Mommy to die.” You don’t try to reason with her or talk her out of her fear, since this strategy has a way of sending the fear even deeper into the psyche. Instead, you just show that you are relaxed with the child’s feeling – you’re not all in a panic about her panic! When the child sees that you are able to handle her fear, she also relaxes and very often, she completely drops the fear! Suppose the child continues the conversation by actually asking you for reassurance: “So tell me are AREN’T going to die Mommy.” Again, name her feeling. “You’re really scared Mommy is going to die! Well, that isn’t very likely right now. What’s very likely is that Mommy will wake up with you tomorrow just like she did yesterday and the day before.” Again, you’re calm attitude will help a lot. Don’t work too hard at proving nothing will ever happen to you because, after all, even you don’t know that to be true.

Teach Positive Coping Skills
Fear is an emotion, and therefore can be addressed by skills in emotional management. They may be encouraged to draw what they are feeling, and more importantly, talk about their drawings to their parents. Structured play can also help kids relax and ventilate. Children can be taught to pray and to feel God’s support. They can be taught to imagine calming pictures in their mind instead of imagining scary ones. Bach Flower Remedies like Red Chestnut (for worry about loved ones) or Mimulus (for fears) may be helpful. If a child is suffering from her fears – i.e. she is having trouble falling asleep, sleeping in her own room, maintaining a calm, happy mood – professional assessment and counseling may be warranted.

Refuses to Go to a Mental Health Professional

In an ideal world, consulting a mental health professional would be as easy as consulting a medical doctor – and as stigma-free. Unfortunately, many people still feel an element of shame, embarrassment or other type of awkwardness about going to a psychological professional. Some people still think that mental health professionals only deal with people who are “crazy” and understandably don’t want to be an identified member of such a population. In fact, in the “olden days” mental illness was poorly understood and derogatory terms such as “crazy” were used to describe people who we know know were suffering from various biological disorders such as schizophrenia, manic-depressive disorder or delusional disorders. Psychiatrists and clinical psychologists can now help mentally ill people feel and function better than ever before. Moreover, modern mental health professionals assist not only those who are suffering from true mental illness, but also those who are completely mentally healthy. They help almost everyone to function in less stressful, more productive and happier ways, helping  them achieve their full potential in every area. People who access mental health services in order to feel and achieve their best, tend to be more emotionally sophisticated, open-minded and growth-oriented than those who do not. In other words, it is often the most mentally healthy people who consult mental health pofessionals today.

Although YOU may know all this, your child may not. In fact, your child may have the old misconception that going to a mental health professional means that there is something wrong with you. As a result, he or she may not want to see a mental health professional, even though you know that this is exactly what is needed.

If your child refuses to go to a mental health professional, consider the following tips:

Explain to your Child what Mental Health is and what Mental Health Professionals Do
As previously mentioned, there are many misconceptions that float around regarding the mental health profession — and even young children could have heard of them through playmates and peers. It’s important then that you explain carefully that mental health is just one aspect of our health. Emphasize that healthy people access mental health services in order to learn new skills, improve relationships, reduce stress and emotional discomfort, feel better physically, and achieve more in school or life. Be specific too – talk about the various tasks that mental health professionals perform such as psycho-educational assessments, mental health assessments, family counseling (to reduce conflict or help cope with stress), remove and/or manage fear, anger or sadness, and much more.

Your child may not recognize or agree that he or she has an issue that requires intervention. As a parent, you are in charge of your child’s well-being. If your child had an infection, you would insist on medical attention. Similarly, if your child needs help for an emotional problem, it is up to you to arrange it. If the child in question is a teenager, you might have to deal with resistance – be prepared. First try to motivate the youngster with reason – explain the possible benefits of assessment and treatment. If the child still refuses to cooperate, let him or her know that, privileges will be removed. For example, “No you don’t have to go to see Dr. Haber, but if you decide not to come, you will  not have the use of my car until you change your mind.” Think of whatever consequences might help motivate your adolescent to cooperate.

Tell children what to expect at their first session. If there will be art or music or toys, let your child know that the session should be very enjoyable, even while the therapist is learning about the child’s issues and learning how to be help. If it will be a talking therapy, tell the child how the therapist might open the conversation, what sort of questions might be asked and how the child might approach the conversation. Tell the child how to handle tricky situations like not wanting to talk or open up too much or feeling not understood or being fearful. In other words, prepare for everything!

Gently but Clearly Explain Why you are Referring Them to a Mental Health Practitioner
Tell your child why you have scheduled a mental health consultation. Explain that the consultation is meant to help the child and is not some sort of negative consequence! Kids who are caught breaking the law, or even family rules, are often scheduled for counseling in order to find out the reason for the misbehavior. Children who do not do well in school are referred to educational psychologists for assessment of learning disorders or other causes. Depressed or anxious teens may be sent to psychiatrists or psychologists for treatment. If you are having relationship difficulties with your youngster, make sure to participate in the counseling process in some way, either having joint sessions with the child or having individuals sessions just like the child is having, or both.

Negotiate Confidentiality Boundaries Beforehand
A tricky issue for children in therapy is confidentiality. It’s common for some kids to have hesitation talking to a mental health professional. For them, counselors are just their parents’ spies — a way parents can gather information about them. It’s important that parents (and maybe the mental health professional him or herself) clarify beforehand that all issues discussed within sessions are confidential, and that only the generic nature of issues discussed would be revealed to parents. Similarly, the mental health practitioner can specify what will remain confidential and what sorts of information cannot remain confidential, giving the child the opportunity to share or withhold information knowing the limits of confidentiality.

Tell your Kids that They can Terminate a Consultation Anytime
It’s important that kids actually enjoy their therapy experiences. Negative therapy experiences may affect them negatively throughout life as they refuse to get much needed help because of traumatic memories of therapy in childhood! Therefore, make sure that your child LIKES going to therapy or change the therapist, or the type of therapy, or even consider stopping therapy for the time being and trying again later. Usually, mental health professionals are good at establishing rapport with their clients and child and adolescent specialists are particularly skilled at making kids feel comfortable. Nonetheless, if your child remains uncomfortable after a couple of meetings, end the therapy. Adults also need to feel comfortable in therapy in order to benefit and they, too, have the right to “shop around” for a compatible therapist or therapy approach. Since there are so many different types of treatments and so many therapists, there; they will do their best to get your child feeling at ease before they start an actual intervention. But many factors can cause your child to be uncomfortable with a mental health professional. It’s helpful then that your child knows that you are at least willing to consider enlisting a different professional, or terminating sessions if there are significant concerns.

Anxious and Stressed Teens

Anxiety is an unsettled, restless, uncomfortable state of mind that can affect people of all ages. Anxious teens may feel worried, stressed or panicky and can experience anxious feelings occasionally or frequently, mildly or intensely. Teenagers who have a lot of anxiety – the kind that interrupts their sleep, interferes with their functioning or causes them intense stress – should be seen by a mental health professional for assessment. Anxious feelings range all the way from normal levels of stress and worry that most people experience, all the way to symptoms of bona fida anxiety disorders – it takes a professional to determine what is going on when anxious feelings are anything more than minor and occasional.

What Triggers Teen Anxiety?
The teenage years are times of high stress, hard decisions and strong emotions. Teen anxiety can be triggered by many events in the teen’s life such as a broken relationship, a parental divorce or academic pressure in school. In addition, teenagers are living in a fast-paced, constantly changing world which creates its own pressure – there is no time to be still and settle in. Social pressures are particularly intense for this age group: kids worry about fitting in, feeling accepted, developing relationships, handling peer pressure and more.

What Parents can Do to Help?
Parents can be part of the problem or part of the solution. For instance, parents can put excessive pressure on teenagers by being too disapproving, too critical or too punitive. On the other hand, they can help relieve stress by being both accepting and gently guiding. They can offer encouragement, praise and validation, keeping the parent-child relationship primarily positive in the ideal 90-10 ratio that is healthiest for this age group (see Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe for details about building a positive relationship with teenagers). Empathetic listening, ready humor and general acceptance go a long way to helping teens feel confident and emotionally secure.

Moreover, parents can guide teens toward activities that provide stress relief such as sports, drama clubs, volunteer work, and even part-time jobs. Parents can also encourage downtime, family fun (board games, outings, hobbies) and even cooking! A short vacation or even a few hours out of the house for some one-on-one quality time can often work wonders with an adolescent. Parents can even play some relaxing music in the house to help set a calm mood. Of course, reducing family stress (no yelling, fighting, marital battles, etc.) will also help reduce teen anxiety. If parents are experiencing stress of their own, they shouldn’t share it with their teens but rather with other supportive adults.

Warning Signs
There is a difference, however, between normal levels of worry and stress and levels that would be best treated with professional help. If a parent notices the following symptoms of anxiety, he or she should discuss them with a doctor and/or ask for a referral for to a  mental health professional (preferably and adolescent specialist) for assessment:

  • Inability to follow through with usual routines  (like getting to class on time, doing homework, doing one’s household chores, keeping one’s room cleaned, grooming oneself properly and so on)
  • Compulsive thoughts (inability to stop thinking about/worrying out loud about certain topics)
  • inability to make a decision without excessive input from others
  • Peculiar habits (i.e. arranging things, checking things, excessive washing, lengthy praying, repeating words or phrases, needing excessive rituals, refusing to touch certain things, wearing gloves inappropriately, and any other strange behavior
  • Agitated behavior (shaking, inability to settle down, stay still, sleep)
  • Disturbed sleep patterns (insomnia, early waking, nightmares)
  • Strange or excessive fears or worries
  • Refusal to go certain places (like malls or parties) or be with certain people or engage in age-appropriate social activities due to anxious feelings
  • Chronic unhappy or irritable mood
  • Addictive behavior (may stem from anxiety)
  • Self-harm such as cutting oneself, picking at one’s skin (may stem from anxiety)
Anxiety Disorders
There are several different types of anxiety disorders, all of which are thought to have biological roots. GAD (generalized anxiety disorder) is a state of chronic worry about everything and anything. Panic Disorder is a focused type of anxiety that may involve panic attacks with or without fear of leaving home unattended. Simple Phobia can involve any intense fear of any one thing like fear of needles or heights or flying. Social Phobia is a type of anxiety that involves fear of being judged negatively by others. PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) is an anxiety disorder that is triggered by experiencing or witnessed a life-threatening event. OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) can occur spontaneously or after a strep infection and involves anxious thoughts and compulsive rituals. Often teens with anxiety have other disorders as well – depression, ADHD, eating disorders and addictive disorders among others. Fortunately, all anxiety disorders respond well to treatment. Today there are many treatments besides medication that are quite effective – therapies, stress-management training, meditation-based interventions, alternative treatments and more. The sooner you get help for your anxious teen, the sooner your teen will enjoy peace of mind.