Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Six Year Old Max Feels Anxious

Little Max is a 6-year-old boy whose teacher has referred him to the school counsellor. His teacher is concerned that he seems agitated a lot of the time especially when other kids are not 'being good.’  When the teacher appears to be angry his concern is heightened. Max’s anxiety is stopping him from engaging in his learning and it is effecting his overall school experience in a negative way.

Is that the way ‘he is’, his nature and he can’t do much about his natural tendency to experience anxiety a lot of the time? What is driving this extreme emotional discomfort and what can be done about it?

He may have inherited a genetic predisposition towards anxiety and it may be a characteristic of other family members to a lesser or greater extent.  He will also have ‘learned’ how to feel anxious, he may have been taught how to feel this way.

As a counsellor I want to know what core philosophical beliefs has Max constructed that drive his anxiety, what does he believe? Where do we start?

The teacher is on the ball and has raised her concerns about Max and the next step is for me to have a chat with he young person. It turns out that Max is a high achiever and wants to do well. He wants his teacher to think well of him and he feels upset when ‘bad’ kids ‘make’ her angry.

What have I learned that could possibly cause Max’s anxious demeanour?

·      He really must get 10 out of 10 and feels bad when he doesn’t
·      Kids can ‘be bad’ or ‘good’
·      He can be ‘bad’ or ‘good’
·      He can ‘make’ the teacher angry
·      Kids can ‘make’ the teacher angry

According to Rational Emotive Education Theory Max is making himself unhealthily anxious. He does this because he has constructed unhealthy core beliefs such as:

·      Other people and events ‘make me’ mad/anxious/angry.
·      I must get 10 out of 10 or I’m hopeless
·      I ‘am’ bad when I ‘do’ bad and good when I ‘do’ good
·      Others ‘are’ bad when they ‘do’ bad and ‘good’ when they ‘do’ good

Max could do with some help to challenge and change these unhealthy, irrational core beliefs.

Max is a character in the popular early childhood Rational Emotive Behaviour Education resource ‘Have a Go Spaghettio!’ You will find many useful strategies in this program to help Max feel and act in helpful ways in the longer term.

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