Childhood Anxiety Treatment - Hilo, HI - Stephanie Dodge, PhD

Does Your Child Seem Overly Anxious and Worried? 

  • Is your child very shy around new people and uncomfortable separating from your side?
  • Does your child cry when you bring him or her to school, even after many weeks or months?
  • Has your child complained about headaches and stomachaches, but doctors say nothing is physically wrong?
  • Does your child tell you that he or she is afraid of doing things wrong or being told of mistakes he or she made?
  • Do you wish you could help your child increase his or her self-esteem, feel happier and just be a kid?

If your child is frequently anxious or worried, you may wonder if and/or how he or she can ever have a peaceful or fulfilling life. You might feel as though everything is just a little more difficult for your child, and your entire family may be limited by your child’s often irrational or confusing fears. Perhaps you are unable to go to events that the rest of the family enjoys because of your child’s worry. Or, you may go to these events, but spend the entire time dealing with your child’s fears instead of enjoying yourself. Maybe you can’t even bring your child to school without a struggle, and it pains you to see how afraid your child is of judgment, bullying and failure.

Your child might constantly ask you for reassurance that everything and everyone will be okay. Perhaps your child does very well in school, but you suspect that his or her academic achievements are the results of perfectionism and overwhelming stress about grades. You may worry that your child is missing out on normal childhood activities, like being with friends or participating in extracurriculars. Maybe your child ends up sleeping in your bed every night, endlessly asking for reassurance in an attempt to feel calm and safe.

Many Children Struggle With Anxiety 

Anxiety is the most common mental health disorder among children, but it often goes unnoticed and undiagnosed. Children with anxiety are often well-behaved, do well in school and may not draw attention to their habits and behaviors. While all children exhibit some level of fear, it can be difficult for parents to determine which fears are part of normal childhood development and which might be indicative of something bigger. For example, it is completely normal for a toddler to fear a monster under the bed, but it might be more concerning if a child in elementary school cannot sleep alone.

Anxiety disorders are caused by a combination of three factors. It can run in families, children can learn anxious behavior when adults around the model it, and children can sometimes be exposed to experiences that leave them worried or fearful afterward. We know that most adult anxiety disorders start in childhood or adolescence, and that early intervention can be helpful in managing anxiety for the future. Thankfully, with help and support, your child can develop the tools he or she needs to mitigate anxious thoughts and feelings and find lasting relief.

Childhood Anxiety Treatment Can Help Your Child Feel Like a Kid Again

Counseling is highly effective in treating childhood anxiety, and the earlier a child begins, the better the outcome for the future. During childhood anxiety treatment sessions, I take a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) approach. Your son or daughter will learn relaxation skills, self-soothing techniques and ways to challenge anxious thoughts and stop predicting the worst. CBT works with kids of all ages, and your child is never too young to start.

The most effective treatment for anxiety is for the anxious person to face the feared object or activity (as long as it is not inherently dangerous). Due to the anxiety, however, the last thing that your child wants to do is to face what he or she fears. Throughout our time together, your child and I will also work to gradually expose your child to the feared (but not dangerous) situation, object or trigger, so that he or she will learn to face fears head-on. I will work at your child’s pace, and he or she will confront smaller scary things before the big fears. If left unaddressed, these fears may only grow larger, limiting your child’s world as he or she attempts to avoid any situation in which the feared experience or object might occur. Exposure therapy is extremely effective because it shows children that the things they are afraid of are truly not that bad.

In sessions, I can also work with you to develop effective ways of encouraging your children to engage with the world. You can learn the best ways to help your child overcome anxiety so that your entire family can enjoy greater freedom and ease. I also have experience working with teachers and pediatricians, which can be helpful if your child has specific phobias regarding school or the doctor’s/dentist’s office.

Childhood anxiety treatment is a safe space for your child to express thoughts and worries without the fear of embarrassment or judgment. Your child can learn tools that can help ease anxious thinking throughout his or her entire life. Therapy can give your son or daughter the chance to experience the joys of childhood, play and explore without crushing self-doubt and move forward into a wide-open world. 

You may believe that childhood anxiety treatment can help your child find relief, but still have question or concerns…

Aren’t some childhood fears normal?

Almost all young children are afraid of something like loud noises or monsters under the bed. Separation anxiety is also very common in toddlers and infants. However, when certain fears extend beyond the preschool years, they can indicate an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders are more than just childhood fears – they are very real mental health problems that can limit your child’s engagement with the world. If you are concerned about your child, it is best to act proactively and bring him or her in for an evaluation. As an expert, I can help you determine what is really going on with your child. Even if your child’s anxiety is only mild, a few sessions of ”life skills” treatment can give him or her healthy coping skills to use throughout life.

Is my child just going to get addicted to medication?

During childhood anxiety treatment, I will be using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, a highly effective treatment that does not involve medication. In fact, medication is rarely the first line of treatment for childhood anxiety. I will not recommend medication for your child unless, after working with him or her for some time, I believe that something else is going on.

Is this somehow my fault? I tend to be anxious and don’t want to pass it on to my child.

While some families do have a greater history of anxiety than others, anxiety is not anybody’s fault. If a traumatic event did occur in your child’s life, I can also offer trauma therapy to help him or her heal. In sessions, I take a gentle approach, and I would never judge anyone for their fears or feelings.

Most of the children I work with really enjoy coming to sessions and I do everything I can to make treatment fun and exciting. Therapy is a fun, safe space for your child to be himself or herself without fear. You will also be learning alongside your child, and many parents have told me that by using the skills their child is learning, they are also better able to manage their own worries and fears. I love working with children who are struggling with anxiety and their families because relief really is possible

If you want to help your child enjoy being a kid, I invite you to call (808) 747 3445 for a free 15-20-minute phone consultation. I’m happy to answer any questions you have about childhood anxiety treatment and my practice.

Other Information:

National Institute of Mental Health: Any Anxiety Disorder Among Children

Help Your Keiki: Anxiety

National Center for Biotechnology Information: Recognizing and treating childhood anxiety disorders

American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry:  Anxiety and Children

American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry:  School Refusal