Q: My son, 12, seems to have a lot of anxiety. He’s always worried and has days when he doesn’t want to leave the house. He also worries at night and it interferes with sleep. Any thoughts?
A: We are seeing more and more anxiety in kids today and at younger ages than ever before. Some children are hard-wired for anxiety and often have a parent who struggles with it. But I think that this is not the whole answer. We live in a world that is very fast-paced and over stimulating. Some children just fi nd the entire pace of life to be too much at times. What can a parent do to help? Actually, quite a lot. Telling a child not to worry is of no use to them at all. What you want to do is help the child fi nd tools for dealing with their anxiety. I have found yoga most useful for kids. If a child can learn the yoga breathing, it gives them something to focus on other than the anxiety. The beauty of yoga breathing is that you take it with you anywhere you go. It is always there for you. We are lucky to have several studios that offer kids yoga in the Richmond area. Sometimes a private class or two can help to get the child off to a good start. This prepares them to go into a class with others of their age. In addition to yoga, sometimes a fi dget can help the child release their stress. A fi dget is something to carry in a pocket or backpack that a child can manipulate, like silly putty. I recommend Aaron’s Thinking Putty; it has a wonderful consistency. You may have to cue your child to focus on his breath or use his fi dget in the beginning. Eventually he should learn to do it on his own. Try these tips too: Make sure your child is not over-scheduled and that they have some down time every day. Make your home a place of refuge from the busy world. Try to minimize the use of electronics and in particular games or television shows that are over-stimulating and/or violent in content. A tool that works with some is to set aside a time during the day to worry. Set a timer or watch alarm for ten minutes. Let the child know that this is worrying time. Once the time is up, encourage him to move on. I have had really good success with this approach. Make sure that the worry time is not close to bedtime, as that might be counterproductive to transitioning to sleep.
Q: I have hired a neighborhood teen to take my two kids to the pool this summer while I am at work. I want to ask her to wear a modest bathing suit when she is with my girls, more to set a good example. Do you think this request is within my rights?
A: You are absolutely within your rights to set some limits on what your children are exposed to. I have such respect for parents who parent from their wisdom and their values. While I am not a prude, I do have great concerns about the way that our culture over-sexualizes young girls. In addition to showing too much, we need to be concerned about sun exposure as skin cancer and melanoma are on the rise. I would simply state your concerns and ask that the sitter wear a modest swimsuit or cover up with a t-shirt. Tell her that these are your family’s values and that your girls look up to her and want to emulate her, so you would appreciate it if she would respect the values you are trying to instill in your kids.