Guilt-Free Ways to be a Less Distracted Parent

My daughter loved the classic Curious George books when she was about two. Those stories are from another time when parents apparently had nothing to do. Each runs at least fifty pages. Fifty pages. To make matters worse, she had memorized the stories, which meant I couldn’t fudge it and skip over large swaths of text.

We’ve all been there, I’m sure, stuck doing the repetitive stories or imaginary scenes dreamed up by our kids. I have a love-hate relationship with these moments: sometimes I really need to get something else done. Other times, I am happy to spend time in a child’s silly world. But what was the difference? I wanted to figure out how I could enjoy that playtime more and still get dinner on the table in time.


Figure out what your child is asking for

All kid needs attention, affirmation, and love from their parents. Each kid is different in how they need to feel that love, though. Some children love being physical—wrestling, cuddling, or touching. Others need verbal encouragement. Still others want you to watch them as they accomplish something.

You know your kid best. When does she light up when you watch her draw? Does he keep asking for tickles? It doesn’t matter if it’s as mind-numbing as another round through Curious George. Choose to share a period of time when you play in their world, instead of asking them to live in yours.

Plan ahead to play

I know there are demands at work and home. But giving unfocused attention to your children is just as important. It’s also limited: I will be doing laundry for my entire life (ugh) but I only have a handful of years with these small kids who want to make messes of paint and playdough.

It sounds silly, but I schedule playtime with my kids. Doing so allows me to commit to focusing on them for a portion of my day. If I don’t designate protected time, my unending to-do list starts breathing down my neck. Other tasks seem so much more productive, seem so much more worthwhile than throwing a tennis ball on the roof. But when I pre-decide to play, I can shut up my to-do list for a little while. I’ll get back to it eventually.


Give 100% focus, and then go do your thing

The act of giving a child our attention is a generous gift. We can buy a toy or send them to a great school, but we can’t outsource sharing our attention with our children. But we have actual tasks that need to get done—dinner doesn’t appear magically at my house, either.

Once I given my child that pre-decided, focused time, I give myself permission to do what needs to be done. Too often, I have found myself giving 50% focus to my kid and 50% on what I’m trying to accomplish. That split focus leaves me irritated and unproductive. (I also tend to burn things.) My two-year-old tends to act up when I’m distracted, forcing me to give him my full, but negative, attention. When I have chosen to give him 100% focus, he feels loved. Then, thankfully, he is more likely to play on his own while I cook dinner or send an email.

Parents know, deep down, that they are often distracted while spending time with their kids. Sometimes it feels like we don’t have any other choice. Ultimately, though, we can choose to carve out specific windows of time during which we participate with our kids in their world.

This doesn’t happen accidentally. Deciding ahead of time becomes a commitment on my planner. Instead of my kids getting the scraps of attention that I have on the edges, they get all of me for a deliberate part of the day. The result? They feel loved and I feel like I am becoming the kind of parent I want to be.

About the Author
Laura Thrasher is the co-founder of, a tool for parents to make small wins in the most important areas of life. She is passionate about helping others make the most of their time. Laura is a writer, marketer, and mom of two. Feel free to connect at


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The Best Advice I Got In Therapy

I don’t want to brag, but I’m a CHAMPION WORRIER.

My super power is combining two awesome thinking errors into one glorious anxiety-inducing situation: catastrophizing and fortune-telling.

Catastrophizing: thinking things are worse than they are.
Fortune Telling: predicting doom and gloom.

The Best Advice I Got In Therapy

How do I know this about myself?

Once, when I was very new to therapy, I sat in a therapy group where the counselor talked to us about “thinking errors.” One such thinking error is “fortune telling” — basically predicting doom and gloom when you have no reason to dwell on such bad things occurring.

As he described the uselessness of fortune telling—funneling all of your energy and thoughts into planning, in great detail, just how tremendously badly things could go and letting those thoughts brew anxiety and sadness inside your mind and body—I scowled and folded my arms.

The counselor picked up on that and asked what I was thinking…

“But I’m a mother. I have a responsibility to my children to consider what could happen in the future and how it could impact them. So I can protect them.”

I figured this would stump him.

Because how on Earth do you argue with that? I’m pretty sure the official job description for “Mom” is fortune telling and catastrophizing.

His wise and helpful response was this:

“You’re right, you do have a responsibility to have a plan. Think of it like this; you sit down with your family and discuss what you will do in case of a fire. You decide to meet across the street by the tree. Now you have a plan in case of a fire. But you shouldn’t lay in bed awake every night waiting for your house to burn down. Make a plan and move on.


I think of that advice all the time. Really. ALL THE TIME.

Because even with the help of therapy, and a stack of really fantastic (heavily highlighted) books, I still worry. A lot.

But now, I know how to either identify my worrying as useless busy work (which is just a distraction from seeking gratitude and joy), or to funnel it into some productive problem solving. Either way, I’m able to move on.


But maybe that feels like tempting fate? If I actually allow myself to truly walk through what I would do if the big scary thing happens, maybe the universe will take it as a sign to make that bad thing happen?!

Like, the Universe, or your higher power of choice is going bring you up in the Monday morning meeting:

“Well it looks like Erin has mapped out her own personal worst case scenario. Let’s go ahead and make that happen for her. I mean, she’s put in so much work. It would be a shame to waste it.”


Worrying aimlessly is useless. If you’re going to worry, make it count. Worry with a purpose! Set a timer for 15 minutes. Worry, formulate your plan, and tuck it away in case you ever need it.

I bet you’ll never need it.

And you’ll sleep better.


Post Script: If you are in a situation that is hard and scary—your metaphorical house is actually burning down—please reach out and talk to your friends and family. Let the people that love you, support and help you.


The post The Best Advice I Got In Therapy appeared first on TodaysMama.

10 Tips for Raising and Nurturing SUPER Happy Kids

This article originally appeared on YourTango.

By Lianne Avila, Expert10 Tips for Raising and Nurturing SUPER Happy Kids

You don’t have to be perfect.

Parenting is no easy job, and shouldn’t be taken lightly. For those of you that have chosen it, you should congratulate yourself. You are making a big difference in helping the next generation.

Parenting and children have changed drastically. Personally, I think video games and the internet are a big part of it. Plus, all the name brands. How do you keep up? It’s important not to compare yourself to others. I know this is easy to do. I, honestly, think that we are wired to do this. But, it is self-defeating and no one benefits.

You don’t have to be perfect. Your child doesn’t expect perfection, and you shouldn’t either. What children need more than anything is to feel loved. They need this more than material things.

Here are 10 ways parents can raise and nurture happy kids:

1. Play with your child.

This is your child’s language. This means you get down on the ground and play with them at their level. When you play with your child, your child genuinely feels loved.

2. Know one important thing happening in your child’s life at school.

This goes with departing. Make sure that you keep in touch with the teacher to know what is happening in your child’s day. You can also ask your child and how they answer depends on their age.Make sure you give your child a big hug and kiss before departing for the day.

As a society, we have gotten away from touching. But, your child needs your touch. They are actually craving it.

3. Don’t try to fix everything. 

Part of growing up and learning to take care of yourself is learning to solve your own problems. This will teach your child how to be resilient. You need these skills in almost everything you do.

4. Don’t overwhelm your children.

When your child has too many rules, they can shut down. Start with a few simple rules and stick with them. This lets your child know what you expect from them. It also lets them know there is a consequence for not following the rules.

5. Read books together every day.

Start when you have a newborn. Children love to hear their parent’s voice. This is also good for the brain and gives you the chance to cuddle up with your child — another great opportunity for touch.


6. Fess up when you blow it.

It’s important you apologize to your child when you’ve done something we wrong. This teaches your child that we all make mistakes. It’s simple: you admit to what you did and you say “I’m sorry.” It can be one of the hardest things to do but one of the best things for your relationship with your child.

7. Show affection to your spouse in front of your kids.

This means kiss, hug, and touch. Your marriage is the only example of a relationship your child has. This means it’s your job to set a great standard.


8. Cheer the good stuff.

When you see your child picking up after themselves, let them know how pleased you are. Thank your child for sharing with their brother or sister without you having to ask. This will help reinforce positive behavior.


9. Trust your mommy gut.  

You know your child better than anyone else. If you think there is something wrong, it’s alright to question it.

If they are quiet when they come home one day when they are usually loud, ask your child what is wrong. If they insist nothing is wrong, it may be time to check-in with the teacher to see how things are going at school.

10. Give yourself a break.

Ordering a pizza when you’ve had a long day, doesn’t mean you are a bad parent. I can tell you, at one time or another, everyone has done it. This also lets your child know they don’t always have to go at 100 mph.


I had the idea to write this article, after seeing many parents and children in my practice. I see a lot of the same problems in families, especially in the Bay Area. I say all of these things a lot in my practice.

Remember, no parent is perfect. Good parents make mistakes. What’s important is that you learn from them and make-up.

Lianne Avila is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in San Mateo, CA. She has helped many parents feel more connected with their children. For a free phone consultation or more information, please visit Lessons for Love

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10 Ways I Battled My New Mom Anxiety

Anxiety is no joke.  The amount of times per week that I have to talk myself back down from a panic cannot be counted on one hand, let alone two.  Everything about motherhood is extra.  Extra stressful.  Extra tiring. Extra overwhelming. Extra scary.  You get it.  Super e-x-t-r-a.  All. The. Time.

I am an extra positive person as well.  The extras extend to the “cup-half-full” side of me, but it takes work. So in preparing for my role as a new mom, I knew it was going to take some full-fledged mental gymnastics to keep my head in the game.  Here are the top 10 ways that I coped with my anxieties as a new mom and kept the extra in check.

Prep for 6-8 weeks of the most exciting exhausting time of your life! I remember when my milk came in I was all of a sudden filled with so much anxiety that was a mix of all things positive and scary at the same time: overwhelming love; hate for the world in its current state; worry that I was doing everything wrong; and the big one…sorrow so deep over the loss of my independence. Yep.  That was a big, fat, guilt-inducing emotion!  I asked for hugs from my husband often during that time, and they actually worked.  Brace yourself for the initial 6-8 weeks, knowing that this is going to be a huge transition hormonally, emotionally, physically, and psychologically.

Don’t even try to do all the things. I mean it.  Just STAHP.  Seriously, that is why people offer to help.  If you are blessed enough to have a support system, utilize them!  I had to remind myself often that as long as the baby is comfortable and cared for with love, she will survive!  And most importantly, you will too.  I would only allow myself to have one to two items on my to-do list each day.  And most of the time, those two things were to shower and drink all the waters.  Allow yourself the time and space to heal and take in every moment.  And don’t let the anxiety of unanswered text messages and missed phone calls get to you.  Everyone can wait.  No text response is worth stressing yourself out about.  I had to fight this urge every time I received communication via text or social media.  Everyone can wait for pictures.  They are just going to keep asking for more anyway.

10 ways defeated new anxiety

Babies were born, and survived, without technology for centuries! There are so many great gadgets for new parents these days.  I cannot tell you how many times I heard, “They never had this when I had my kids!” from those who went before me on the parenthood journey.  There are also WAY too many choices of all things technology out there.  Enough to, you guessed it, cause a panic attack.  I made a point to set aside my constant fear of something happening to my daughter in her sleep, and opted for no monitor.  “Gasp!  What?  No monitor?  But what about all of the things?”  Well you know what? It’s miraculous.  She is plenty loud when she needs us.  So I will sleep soundly (when I do sleep) until she lets me know she needs me, from down the hall.

Maybe don’t read every baby related article on Facebook. Unless it’s this one.  Then you are in the right place.  This is everything right now.  Just kidding.  You know the articles I’m talking about.  The ones that warn you of every potential evil that has ever existed in the entire world.  If you must read them (to set your anxiety about knowing you haven’t read them at ease) then do the following:  make a list of one take away from the article that will help you be a more aware and attentive parent.  Then be done with it.  Don’t worry about needing to warn all other moms of this potential danger you had never heard of.  I guarantee you they are already stressing themselves out over the same article. Move on.


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Allow space for your mother’s intuition. There are so many opinions out there on what to do. Basically all the ways you can either set your baby up for the most emotionally fulfilling success, or on the flip side, all the ways you can traumatically injure them and destroy any hope for a bright future.  But don’t worry…you ultimately get to decide.  #nojudgementzone  Yeah right!  It’s a trap!  BIG FAT JUDGEMENT ZONE!!  Run!  For real though, you are the one who is responsible for your child.  In spite of all the well-intentioned advice, you have to go with your gut at the end of the day.  You will be the one who learns your baby’s cues, and ultimately…you will figure it out one day at a time. Cut yourself some slack.  This was one of the biggest threats to my new mom anxiety levels, and I had to monitor myself carefully.  You of course may need to seek advice, a lot.  But you will learn who your trusted sources are.  Cling to them for dear life.

I reminded myself that the gas pains will subside, eventually. She won’t remember this gas- this too shall pass.  This was the mantra I repeated to myself when she was crying non-stop each evening as she worked through the gas pains.  Remember, their little systems are booting up.  Everything has to work itself out and so you’ll go through some rough phases.  But just as quick as the gas came, it went.  It was an issue for maybe 2 weeks tops.  Although it did feel like forever, and I felt myself spiraling down a few times.  She won’t remember this gas- this too shall pass. Rinse and repeat.

Self-care really did give me a boost. Even running on empty, if I could at least take a nice hot shower I felt like I could take on the world!  (But remember, only two to-do items per day!)  For each person, self-care may look a bit different.  For me it was shower, get dressed, put on a tad bit of makeup, enjoy a cup of delicious coffee and take my supplements.  That was my power combo.  And I’m talking about wearing a capsule wardrobe with a 5-minute makeup routine.  Nothing fancy.  And I wear the same red lipstick and hat every day.  Because who has time to deal with all that post-partum alopecia?  Not this chick.  Find what packs a punch for you in the most efficient way possible, and this will go far in boosting your outlook when facing all these new anxieties.

10 ways overcome new mom anxiety

Do not cave to the vain imaginations! What’s a vain imagination you ask?  It’s all of the things you imagine are potentially going to happen.  And then all of the responses you come up with, because now you are convinced they are going to happen.  And now you are crying and dry heaving, because how are you going to deal with these things that just happened for crying out loud?!  But wait, they haven’t happened yet.  And I actually just made that all up in my mind.  So really, it isn’t even truth because it hasn’t even occurred and may not occur.  See where I’m going with this?

Give yourself and others around you and extra measure of grace. Especially if this is your first time caring for a little one.  Remember that you have to get to know this sweet babe and/or babes.  (Dear Lord, give them an extra measure of grace if it’s babies plural!) When it comes to all the small ways your anxiety wants to take over when you see someone else trying to change the diaper- slowly back away.  Even if it is taking your husband a bajillion hours to change her, and he isn’t even putting the new diaper under the old one in case she starts peeing before he can get the new one on!  ARGHHHH!  But you know what he is doing?  He’s bonding with the baby.  Remember that.  And she’s safe, even if there is an extra mess to clean up.  He’s learning what it means to care for a baby too.  Give your loved ones the space to grow alongside you.  None of you have it all figured out, so just do your best.


SEE MORE: The Day I Stopped Saying “Hurry Up”


Slow down, and be in the moment. This is easier said than done.  Because if you are like me, your anxiety will pull you under as the laundry piles up.  And the dishes aren’t done.  And the house takes on a particularly dusty hue.  I finally got to the point where I started asking people to clean when they asked how they could help.  Because I was too flipping tired to do anything other than care for my little one and occasionally venture out into the world from time to time.  When the anxious thoughts would creep up, I would battle them back by thinking of all the precious time I was soaking up watching this little human being develop and change.  It was all too important, and I had to protect that time at all cost.

Try out different ways to fight the anxiety that threatens to take you down.  Try new things, don’t be afraid to fail, and keep going until you find little ways to relieve the overwhelm.  No one expects you to be perfect, so don’t even put that on yourself.   Most of all, make sure you talk about how you’re feeling with those whom you trust.  It’s always best to speak out about your anxieties, so they don’t become the monsters in your head.  And remember – you are not alone mama!

Disclaimer:  This is a disclaimer about all the disclaimers, because anxiety.  I in no way claim to know what I’m doing.  I do not have a cure for anxiety.  I’m just a girl with ideas.  I found what worked for me and hope it helps you and yours.  Please like me.

Misty Winesberry has been married for going on 9 years to her husband Jajuan Winesberry. They recently welcomed a baby girl making them a cozy family of three.  As a multi-passionate career woman, Misty enjoys advocacy work in her spare time.  While Misty and Jajuan photograph weddings primarily, they also share their story of hope and recovery while living with mental illness.  Their desire is to fight stigma at every turn, making it easier for others who are struggling to find their voice.  You can find them at their website, Facebook or their Instagram account.

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The One Question Your Child Secretly Wants You To Answer

Unless you tell your children what you believe about them— what you think their talents are, what their character is like, what you expect of them—you might be surprised what they think.

I was giving Quinn a check-up for kindergarten. He said his dad was overseas fighting in a war and that he missed him terribly, and couldn’t wait for him to come home. He was proud of his dad and tried to describe his uniform for me.

“My Dad really misses me,” he said. “He’s proud of me and says I need to be the man of the house while he’s gone. My mom says I don’t, but I believe my Dad. He’s tough, you know, and when he comes home he’s gonna take me hunting. But I have to be twelve to shoot a gun, he says, because I’m too young now.” Quinn talked rapidly and his voice seemed strained.

“Yup. My dad told me that I’m the smartest kid he’s ever known. He’s right, you know. I am smart. I read every day because I know that when my dad gets home he’s going to want me to read with him.”

I asked Quinn to get a book from the waiting room to show me how well he could read. When he stepped out, I asked his mother about his dad. “He’s in jail,” she started. Then she broke down crying. “He never calls. He doesn’t write either. He got busted for drunk driving and was so humiliated he couldn’t bear to tell Quinn where he went. We told him that dad had work to do far away. Quinn turned that into he was overseas fighting a war. I just didn’t have the heart to correct him.”

Children have vivid imaginations and at six, which was Quinn’s age, it’s not unusual for them to create an imaginary friend. In Quinn’s case he was creating an imaginary father to make up for the absence of a real one. It was okay for the moment, but eventually he would, gently, have to be told the truth. Neither his mom nor I looked forward to that moment.

father and son communicate with child

Quinn imagined what his father believed about him—and maybe he was right, maybe his father did think he was the smartest boy on the planet; maybe he had told Quinn so earlier. The important thing was that Quinn was sustained by his belief that his father was proud of him, and believed him to be strong and smart.

Quinn’s father was set to be released from jail in the next few months. My hope was that he would reaffirm his son’s faith in what his dad believed about him. That would make the transition much easier.

The academic research has shown us that kids who have good communication with their fathers are much less likely to have trouble with drugs, alcohol, or depression. It seems as though dads have a unique power to boost their children’s sense of self-worth, of being grounded, and of belonging, which acts as a shield not just against drugs, alcohol, and depression, but, what is often related, teenage sexual activity.

Here’s how you can help fill that need.

1. Communicate simple truth.

Kids see right through platitudes and hype. It’s no good getting C’s in school and having your father boast that you are one of the smartest kids in the class, if you still can’t get your grades up, no matter how much you apply yourself. So praise needs to be honest. If your child is getting C’s and that’s the best he can do, tell him that’s fine, that you admire his tenacity for working so hard, and help him discover the subjects or practical skills at which he can excel, while he hammers out his C’s in Calculus or English.

As a parent you should be positive—and never talk critically of your children to other people—but you also want to be truthful. Your kids will appreciate that—and appreciate that C’s in math don’t spell the end of your affection for them or mean that they’re mediocre in everything, or for that matter that with enough effort and time they can’t improve in math!

2. Praise their Character not the stuff they do.

Kids want to know what you think they’re made of deep down. So tell them, “I believe that you are courageous, strong, patient, committed, hard- working, chivalrous,” or whatever the case may be.

child parent communication

3. Let them catch you talking about them.

When I was rejected from every medical school I applied to at twenty-one, I thought my life was over. I thought I was too stupid to go and that’s why I was rejected. One day I overheard my father talking on the phone to a friend and telling him that I would be going to medical school in the very near future. I was stunned. In that moment, my life changed. I was filled with the deep knowledge that my dad believed I could succeed in medical school. That was it. I was going. Period. That overheard conversation meant nothing to my father; it meant everything to me.
When you really believe in your kids, they’ll hear it in your voice. If they hear you talking about your belief in their goodness, perseverance, or courage, they will believe it—and it might just change their lives.

4. Take advantage of their failure.

The very best time to communicate sincere belief in your son or daughter is during a time when they feel they have failed. Then, their self-esteem is low, they are thinking that they are worthless, dumb, incapable. That is the perfect time for you to step in with a smile and say, “I don’t care what just happened on the field, I don’t care that you just flunked your exam, I know what you are made of and I believe in you. So stand up again and get back at it.” These are words that change your kids’ lives.

*This is excerpt from Meg Meeker’s brand new book Amazon Best Selling book HERO: Being the strong father your children need.



Meg Meeker is a New York Times bestselling author who writes with the know-how of a pediatrician and the big heart of a mother because she has spent the last 30 years practicing pediatric and adolescent medicine. Her work with the NFL, the United Nations, and countless families over the years has served as the inspiration behind her best-selling books: Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters: 10 Secrets Every Father Should Know and Strong Mothers, Strong Sons: Lessons Mothers Need to Raise Extraordinary Men. You can pick up your copies on Amazon or at

Dr. Meg is a parent and has spoken nationally on parenting issues, including personal appearances on numerous nationally syndicated radio and television programs including The Today Show, Dateline with Katie Couric, Fox and Friends, The Dave Ramsey Show, The Laura Ingraham Show, NPR, Oprah Radio, The World Over with Raymond Arroyo and more.

The 21 Reasons Your Kid Lies

By Judy Helm Wright

We don’t want our kids to lie and we discipline them when they do. But wait,what about us?

Do parents lie to their kids? Do kids tell lies? Why do we lie often when the truth would serve us better?

We recently had a group of friends and relatives at our home for a dinner party. After some great food and general conversation, I asked them to help me with this project.

Everyone was supportive and eager to assist in writing a book. But when I asked them to tell me why they lied, there was a shocked silence.

No one wanted to admit to the group that they lied as adults and as parents. They were eager to find solutions to their children telling stories or blaming other people, but hey, they were mature adults and surely they had outgrown those behaviors, or at least they wanted everyone else to think they had.

Integrity is a process.

I explained that developing integrity is an on-going process, not only for children but for adults too.

When I confessed about telling a lie to an insurance agent who called for a number when I was busy preparing dinner, they were reassured: “Oh, you mean little lies; well sure we all do that.”

So I asked them to list the reasons why people would lie. We were able to come up with ten reasons. I later asked a group of children who added to the list and repeated some of the same ones the adults had listed.

Here are some 21 reasons why kids lie and why parents lie too:

1. To conceal guilt and avoid punishment

2. To avoid ridicule, disapproval, or embarrassment

3. To impress others to win acceptance or approval

4. To get out of trouble.

5. To get someone else into trouble.

6. Because they were afraid of the punishment for admitting what we did.

7. Because they were boasting or bragging.

8. To get people to like us.

9. To get people to leave us alone.

10. They can’t remember what the truth is.

11. They don’t want to assume responsibility.

12. They think we won’t get caught.

13. To make our lives seem more interesting.

14. To inflate our credibility and influence

15. To avoid confrontation and conflict.

16. To make others feel good about themselves.

17. To get attention when we feel left out.

18. To take advantage of other people or situations.

19. To protect other people.

20. To cover up another lie we told previously

21. Because it has become a habit.

It was interesting to see how much more open and willing the children were to admit that they used lying as a life skill and as a way of coping with difficult situations.

Some children felt it was wrong, some had trouble defining a lie and some were clearly confused by the messages they were getting from their parents.

What is a Lie?

Remember to distinguish between a lie, which a persistent intent to deceive, and wishful thinking. Most young children have vivid imaginations and cannot think in abstract ways.

If a young child sees a friend with a new puppy, he may state, “Yes, we have a new puppy, too.” He’s not being deceitful, he’s confusing fact with a fantasy.

He may have been begging for a dog, and his parents were non-committal. In his mind, maybe if he says it often enough and with much emphasis, it will indeed be true.

Casting the wide net of blame is often very common in young children. A mother in a parenting class shared that when she asked her 3-year-old daughter if she had wet her pants, she said, “No, I am potty trained. But my pants wet me.”
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5 Signs Your Child Has Anxiety (That You’re Probably Ignoring)

By Natasha Daniels

Don’t miss these signs.

Parents would know if their child is anxious, right? You’d probably see obvious signs, right? Your child would express all their fear and worries. They would be afraid all the time.

You might think you would know the child anxiety symptoms, but sometimes it is not. Sometimes, parents miss it altogether. Unfortunately, anxiety isn’t always that obvious. Some children don’t vocalize their worries. They don’t show their fears. And anxiety isn’t on their parents’ radar.

In my child therapy practice, parents often bring their children in for other reasons, only to discover that the problem is actually anxiety. Here are child anxiety symptoms that are sometimes missed:

  1. They experience physical symptoms.

Anxiety isn’t just in our minds, it is in our body as well. Here are a few examples:

Your child won’t poop. They have been constipated for weeks. You’ve been to the doctor and there is no medical origin.

Your child’s stomach hurts. They feel like throwing up. They are having gastrointestinal problems. You brought them to the pediatrician. You went to the gastrointestinal specialist. Your child has been poked, prodded and maybe even scoped. No medical origin has been found.

  1. They refuse to go to school.

Your child used to love school. They’ve always had friends and they have always gotten good grades. Now it is a battle just to get them in the car. They tell you they don’t feel well. Their stomach hurts. They say they are going to throw up. You keep them home, only to feel bamboozled because they seem fine shortly thereafter.

You talk to the teacher and the counselor. Everyone swears up and down that your child has friends. That they are not being bullied. That they enjoy school. Weekends are pain-free. Your child seems completely healthy… and then Sunday rolls around. The cycle begins again.

  1. They are angry.

Anger can be tricky. Kids can be angry for so many reasons. They might have difficulty self-regulating. They might have a mood issue. They might have a hard time accepting no. But along with the usual contenders, it can be child anxiety symptom that’s the underlining cause of anger too.

If your child stuffs their worries way down deep, the only thing to bubble to the surface might be their anger. They come home from school ready to explode. Bedtime brings rage and resistance. New situations cause unusual hostility and defiance. Pay attention to when and why your child gets angry as it could be the key to unearthing the true cause.

  1. They avoid participating in activities.

Your child used to love soccer practice and now they are refusing to go. Your child said they wanted to take swim lessons, but after the first lesson you can’t get them back to class. Your child always wants to stay home and refuses to go to restaurants and stores with you.

When a child starts avoiding situations they used to enjoy, it is time to take a second look at why. It might be that they simply no longer like soccer or swim class, but it might be something more significant.

The #1 unhealthiest, go-to coping mechanism for anxiety is AVOIDANCE. Avoid at all costs. 

If I don’t go to soccer, then I won’t have to worry about the ball hitting my face.

If I say I don’t want to swim, then I won’t have to worry about sinking to the bottom of the pool.

If I put up a big fight, then I won’t have to go to the restaurant and worry about throwing up in public.

  1. Their routines become rituals.

Your child has to line up all their stuffed animals in a perfect row before they go to bed. You have to say “I love you” in a certain way, for a certain number of times, before your child will go to bed.

Parents often mistake ritualistic behavior for routines. Routines are comforting and predictable. Rituals are rigid and need to be redone if not done “correctly.” Routines are a healthy part of childhood; rituals are an indication of anxiety.

Anxiety is a very treatable condition. The earlier children get help, the better the prognosis in the long run. 

If you feel like your child is having some signs of anxiety, seek out the advice of a mental healthprofessional. It can never hurt to get some professional input and guidance. Educate yourself and find support and resources on the web. Watch parenting videos. Think outside of the box. You can use yoga and other activities to help reduce your child’s anxiety.

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