It seems that many young people today are experiencing anxiety symptoms, but the problem is significantly greater among kids with food allergies. In a study, fifty-seven percent of children with a food allergy reported having symptoms of anxiety, compared to 48 percent of children without a food allergy.
The higher anxiety rate among kids with a food allergy is likely owed to living with a life-threatening condition, plus many children worry about being “different” than their peers, fearing rejection or humiliation. Family financial concerns, and how parents manage the food allergy are also factors.
Fortunately, childhood anxiety is highly treatable, and research shows teaching kids to focus on the present moment is an effective treatment option.
A study published in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology indicates that children with high anxiety substantially benefit from MBCT, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy. MBCT involves activities such as yoga, meditation, and paying non-judgmental attention to whatever is occurring.
MBCT was originally developed as a relapse-prevention treatment but has been found extremely helpful in alleviating symptoms of depression and anxiety. For adults, it combines cognitive behavioral therapy, which helps people think constructively, with mindfulness techniques.
MBCT For Children
In mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for children, or MBCT-C, young people:
- Learn their thoughts, feelings, and body sensations are temporary inner experiences that they can engage, or not.
- Practice watching their thoughts, feelings, and body sensations with curiosity and compassion, instead of turning them into a negative “story about me.”
- Develop the ability to tolerate distressing thoughts, emotions, and body sensations without trying to suppress them, run from them, or fight them.
- Practice staying in touch with the present moment, instead of focusing on past events, or worrying about the future.
- Engage in activities such as breathing exercises, body scans, yoga-like movements, and paying attention to inner and outer environments using all five senses.
MBCT-C groups typically involve 12 weekly, 90-minute sessions. Parents are usually invited to one or two of the sessions and are encouraged to participate in home-based mindfulness activities with their child.
Though finding a local MBCT-C group may not be easy, you can start by doing an Internet search using terms such as “mindfulness-based cognitive therapy” + your city or region, or “mindfulness” + your city or region.
Even if MBCT-C is not offered in your area, parents and kids can learn mindfulness together at home by utilizing online resources, and books such as “Sitting Still Like a Frog: Mindfulness Exercises for Kids (and Their Parents),” written by therapist and mindfulness trainer Eline Snel. This book introduces kids to mindfulness in an easy-to-comprehend and playful way.
Not only can learning mindfulness help children and parents cope with food allergy-related anxiety, it’s a valuable life-skill for staying calm and grounded in our busy, and sometimes chaotic world.