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When Anxiety Can Be Good For Your Child, According To An Expert
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  • Dr. Gail Reyes Galang is chair of the Family Studies program of Miriam College where she also teaches under the Department of Psychology. She is currently the associate director of the Center for Peace Education.

    If your child feels anxious, don’t be too quick to fix things because anxiety can be a good thing. In moderate amounts, it can make your child perform better.

    Positive effects of anxiety

    Recall the times you felt anxious as a kid, would you have done better on an important task if you had no anxiety at all? Whether it is an exam or a job interview, performance is enhanced by experiencing a little anxiety.

    Children need to experience anxiety so that they can anchor on that feeling to prepare for anything that could possibly go wrong. In a way, it is like anticipating something negative, but uncertain. “I’ll be speaking in class and I’m not sure if I can say my lines well, so I’ve got to practice until I get it right.”

    However, what you don’t want is too much anxiety. Instead of being able to deliver the lines flawlessly, being too uptight can cause a child to forget what to say. Too much test anxiety can make a student go blank and flunk all together.

    Feeling too anxious can make someone feel unwell. Perspiring profusely or feeling sick in the stomach can really cause someone to perform poorly. Just as too much of a good thing can be harmful, so too is anxiety that is out of control.

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    Like anxiety, fear can also be good for us. It protects us by increasing our heart rate and blood pressure, for example, so that we could attack or escape. This is often referred to as a fight or flight response.

    How anxiety and fear makes a child stronger

    Although quite similar, the difference between anxiety and fear seem to be in its time orientation. Anxiety is future oriented, while fear is an immediate emotional reaction to something current. Teaching our children to understand feelings allows them to think of appropriate responses to preserve their sense of control over things.

    Preparing a child to handle anxiety and fear increases their adversity quotient. Adversity quotient (AQ) is defined as a measure of the capability of an individual to face difficult situations in life.

    Dr. Paul Stoltz coined the term Adversity Quotient in 1997 in his book ‘Adversity Quotient: Turning Obstacles Into Opportunities. AQ is sometimes referred to as the science of resilience.

    4 ways to develop resilience

    Experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic teaches us the importance of building resilience among our children at an early age. By doing so, they feel more confident should life throw them a fast ball. The following are ways to score points in developing AQ.

    1. Be proactive.

    Teach your children to have an active approach towards life’s challenges. Train them to solve things on their own first and to ask assistance only if they think they have exhausted all means of solving their own problems.

    2. Maintain positivity.

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    Even if things don’t go as planned, children will benefit from seeing their bad experiences constructively. This will allow them to strategize better the next time a similar incident happens.

    3. Gain prosocial attention.

    Children who have high AQ keep themselves humble in accepting that they are not perfect. This enables them to gain others’ positive attention. People will be more willing to help them in times of adversity.

    4. Be purposive.

    Instead of sulking in sadness, children can benefit from cultivating a deep sense of faith that will allow them to hold on and maintain a positive outlook in life.

    Remember that anxiety, fear, and stress are normal feelings, especially in an abnormal situations. As parents, however, we should observe closely if anxiety or worry is too excessive and if our children find it difficult to control such emotions over an extended period of time.

    These, plus some other symptoms (i.e restlessness, fatigue, irritability, muscle tension, sleep disturbance) may already be Generalized Anxiety Disorder and if so, professional help must be sought to determine its cause.

    Dr. Galang also hosts a weekly program, “Our Peaceful Classroom” in Channel e. She is mom to four kids and four fur babies.

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