I Am Anxious
In “I Am Anxious,” Betty, the Hippo, struggles with an anxiety disorder. Of the 17.1 million children with mental health issues, the Child and Mind Institute identifies anxiety as the most common disorder, being found in 31.9% of these children. 80% of children with diagnosable anxiety are not getting the proper help. With “I Am Anxious,” the goal is to help children and parents learn to recognize if the child is experiencing anxiety and encourage them both to receive proper help.
Anxiety can be debilitating, often holding children, and adults, back from enjoying life. In the cases where a child feels nervous when experiencing something that is pushing them out of their comfort zone (the first day of school, tryouts for a play, an important test), anxiety is not severely debilitating but is a normal part of life. The anxiety which needs to be addressed is the kind which holds a child back from participating in things that they enjoy or that may be beneficial to their development. For example, a child may develop a fear of bugs which prevents them from going outside. The feelings within this fear may include stomach pain, negative thoughts, trouble sitting still, trouble breathing, panic attacks and more. One symptom given to Betty is her inability to remain still. Another one is tight pressure in her chest, making it hard to breathe.
Betty expresses that even though she recognizes her anxiety and its symptoms, she isn’t exactly sure what the causes are. Children may have this problem and will need help identifying these causes. Being forced to deal with their anxieties head-on and by themselves can make it harder for them to identify the sources of their anxiety. Because of this, it is necessary to help them learn how to develop the courage they need to face their fears and introduce calmness back into their lives.
The activity Betty uses to cope with her anxiety is centered around helping the child divert their attention to something other than their fears. When doing this activity with a child, it may be helpful to ask questions about the beads that the child is focusing on, at that moment: what do the beads feel like? Are they hard or soft? What shape are the beads? Etc.
With the help of caring adults and trained professionals, children who struggle with anxiety can overcome their challenges. The hope with “I Am Anxious” is that both parents and children will be able to come away with an awareness that helps both parties become aware of the anxiety and know what to do with it. For more proper care, seeking help from a professional will enable a child to receive the help that is focused on their own personal needs.