Why we don’t want anxious children

PHOTO: Huffington Post

As adults we worry about how to get the money to do that project. We grit our teeth when traffic looks so heavy that that appointment would be difficult to keep. When we find ourselves in these difficult situations, we feel anxious or distressed. But then many times, we try to solve the predicament as best as we could.

However, a child who has an issue but does not know what is happening to him will worry and feel fearful. The very young child who is fearful may cry to make mummy or daddy know that she needs help. Do give that help, mummy. Anyway you can, help the child, for anxiety in children is no child’s play. Do not make the child feel worse by using force, either.

Recently, the issue of xenophobia in South Africa came up again making us to look once more at information we found somewhere else. It said that about one-in-five South African children were found to have the anxiety disorder. That was the conclusion of a study done in that country sometime ago. Violence has been traced to anxiety disorder. But we are still a happy people though, so we can safely assume that issues should not get to an alarming rate of children battling with anxiety issues.

But what made the study interesting is that certain behaviours, which many parents accept as part of the growing process, may be a result of a child who feels fearful or anxious.

For example, anxiety could make your child to do poorly in his studies as much as it can cause the one who is praised for being brilliant to overwork himself. He does very well but he is really under immense pressure to please. So he puts his energy in his studies to mask his anxiety.

Why should a child be fearful? Security issues remain high on the list. Children are exposed to strife and violence these days and they have access to such news report now, more than ever.

The rising cost of food should concern children too. It is assumed that it should not be a child’s concern how his food is bought, but the reality is that many children in our society know. If they are not directly helping to make the family’s income, they are informed by their parents. They learn from other sources, too.

A parent who bought 5kg measure of garri at N700 in January and buys it in April for N1000, would warn her children not to waste food. Anybody who is observant should wonder about the drop in the availability of staples like yam. We have heard so much about damage to farmlands or the inability of some regions to work on their farms as the result of insecurity. These add to the feeling of anxiety on a parent’s part; “How do we get food? Your anxiety therefore feeds your child’s fear.

You gain a lot though by showing them that inflation needs not bring life to halt. Try to see where you can adjust by cutting out what is not necessary. A mother who went broke laughed as she recalled her “stupidity” in thinking that “rich food” was like eating like a king. “You could eat better than a king on a diet of vegetables prepared humbly with crayfish,” she observed.

You may have to do that if inflation is proving too much to cope with. Fruits and vegetables are costly by the day but they are health giving and will do well with eba. Healthy children are happy children. Your complaint about rising cost of living makes them anxious; one of the reasons that is said to make South African children anxious was life in the city. If you live in places like Lagos and could not do much to grow your own food, you would worry. But do you have a little patch of land in your compound? You could try to cultivate it to supplement your food supply, engage the children. Everybody likes to grow things; Nigerians were like this at one time. We have songs that make everybody want to partake in farming.

Consider this one that points out that you go hungry if would not work; the one that tells you to work; farming is not for lazy bones. Engage the children for after-school hours or at weekends, when they could possibly work on the farm. They will have to fix their party time or the time they do their socializing by themselves. Your Lagos born and bred children may think it strange but when they see a tuber of yam that has come from their effort, they will catch the farming fever in the end.

Insist that the government takes seriously the insecurity issue as it concerns the murder of farmers and the destruction of farmlands and crops. Anxiety from famine would be serious.

Darkness makes some children fearful. If your young one fears the dark, deal with it by making him go into a dark room or making another child who is not afraid to go into a dark room and show him that there is nothing frightening about the dark.

You the parent make them anxious when you tell a child “I will leave you in the street” when they are playing. You come out as seriously threatening to abandon a helpless one who depends on you so much.

Give a child only the task you know he can accomplish. When you load it up, he feels overwhelmed when he cannot do it.

When you discuss kidnapping and child -snatching with your children, tell the older ones not to leave the younger ones alone with a stranger. From stories one hears these days; it looks like it is even difficult for a well-meaning individual to assist a lost child. To help everybody, teach your smart baby to ask Police, LASTMA officials or any legitimate security they see when they miss their way.

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