Executive director Manisha Willms of the OSNS Child and Youth Development Centre and Hailey Anderson enjoy the LED bubble tube inside Otis’ Cave, a sensory calming place to help reduce anxiety in children. Mark Brett/Western News

Child anxiety issues addressed

Large turnout for OSNS workshops on anxiety issues facing young children

Anxiety issues among young children is a growing concern.

Just how much the matter is in the forefront of parents’ minds was evidenced in the turnout at the first two of a series of workshops on the topic at the OSNS Child and Youth Development Centre.

“In the first one last Wednesday (Feb. 15) we were hoping for at least 12 families but we had 34 families who registered, representing over 45 children and so we’re really excited,” said OSNS executive director Manisha Willms, who is conducting two of the four sessions including last Wednesday’s. “It’s (high number of registrants) bad in a way that so many people have concerns but I don’t think that’s new information for us. We’ve known for some time this is a real area of need, that many children even at a young age are struggling with a lot of worry and anxiety that’s real and is outside of what we typically expect kids to experience, to a point where it affects their behaviour.

“We know that youth mental health is an area of great need so it shouldn’t come as a surprise to us that those needs are starting early.”

Related: OSNS helping kids and parents

The workshop was presented by Dr. Jodi Morris, who specializes in child psychology and works with youth at the centre and in Kelowna.

According to Morris everyone has anxiety in their life and it’s important to distinguish between that and the more serious problems which can escalate.

“Often times kids struggle with anxiety if it’s left untreated, some kids do figure out things on their own and they’re fine,” she said. “But some kids, unfortunately, instead of it being labelled as anxiety or emotional distress, they sometimes just get labelled as destructive or bad kids and that can impact their self esteem and their school performance.

“If a child is having extreme anxiety so that they are refusing to go to preschool, if they’re fearful of trying new things so not socializing with their peers or participating in activities or if their reaction is just kind of extended or out of proportion to whatever event it is to whatever event they’re feeling anxious about this is when it is a cause for concern.”

The way to combat the problem is to give parents and children the tools they need to deal with the anxiety.

“It is really important because children quite often won’t talk about feeling anxious or worried or being upset and it comes out in their behaviour,” said Morris. “This can cause considerable distress in families and in the daycare setting.”

The remaining workshops are Feb. 22, March 1 and March 8.

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