When children struggle significantly with anxiety and emotion regulation, it can impact all aspects of life; learning, relationships, and even their physical health and well-being. As parents, it can be devastating to see your child constantly criticizing themselves, or avoiding meaningful relationships and experiences. These big emotions may even result in explosive behaviour. We find that many children who are referred to us with what challenging behaviour are actually struggling with anxiety or emotion regulation.
The reality is that everyone experiences anxious or uncomfortable thoughts and emotions. And in fact, anxiety can sometimes be helpful. Anxiety can heighten our senses and prepare us for action during real times of threat. And it can provide us information about what’s important to us. So to experience anxiety is part of being human. Yes, sometimes the anxiety can feel completely overwhelming, but it’s really our response to the anxiety that makes all the difference.
Our therapists aim to help children notice their anxiety and learn how to respond in more helpful ways. We have extensive training and experience with Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, an empirically supported behavioural therapy that focuses on improving psychological well-being. Although ACT would share some characteristics with traditional Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), there are some important, fundamental differences. While CBT would focus on helping an individual cope with and ‘correct’ negative thoughts, ACT would focus on changing a person’s relationship with uncomfortable thoughts. Rather than getting into an unending struggle, it’s about noticing and accepting those thoughts. In doing so, we’re taking away their power.
If you would like to better understand our approach to anxiety and emotion regulation, have a look at some of our writings:
Helping Your Child Sit with Uncomfortable Thoughts and Feelings – an invited article