Anxiety in Children: How to Help Your Child Cope with Panic Attacks
Unable to move, she stood as if frozen. Her heart pounded in her chest, clenching her whole body – her will – in an unrelenting grip. Her head began to spin.
The dizzy feeling slowly but steadily increased as her surroundings seemed to close in on her. What she perceived with her senses was surreal, but yet so palpable at the same time.
Within … a feeling rose. It wasn’t just the feeling of nausea. It was an overwhelming urge to want to escape. Though her feet didn’t move. Panic reflected in her young eyes.
If you’ve ever seen this kind of fearful look on your child’s face, they may have been in the grip of a panic attack.
As scary as panic attacks can be to an adult, for children it can be even more traumatic. Due to the impact of physiological symptoms — such as sweating, a racing heart, dizziness, shortness of breath, a feeling of choking, or tingling in their hands or feet — a young child could actually conclude they’re dying.
Just thinking of that may cause anxiety for parents as well, particularly because anxiety in children is on the rise.
But do you helplessly have to stand by? What can you as a parent do?
Help Your Child Understand What Anxiety and Panic Attacks Are
First, you must educate yourself about anxiety in children and help your child understand:
- What an anxiety attack or panic attack is. — Explain to your child that anxiety is a normal reaction to dangerous situations, but that at times their body may have a false alarm. There is no real danger, but all their feelings and sensations tell them there is.
- How to know if they have a panic attack. — Teach your child what the symptoms are. Make them aware that not everyone around them — including you — can always tell that they’re having a panic attack. It’s important that they alert others.
Help Your Child Cope During a Panic Attack
Remember that during a panic attack your child feels very scared. While it may only last 10-15 minutes, to a child, that can seem like an eternity.
Help your child by:
- Staying calm. It’s imperative that you stay in control of your emotions. Your body language needs to be relaxed and your tone of voice soothing.
- Being supportive. Let them know that you understand that they are scared. Be confident and assure them that you are by their side and that they will be alright.
- Allowing them to leave the situation. If something obvious that is present causes the panic, lead your child somewhere quiet — a bathroom or outside into fresh air.
- Reminding your child that panic attacks always end. Explain that they’re not dying. If they feel dizzy, let them sit or lie down.
- Helping them to relax. Ask your child to concentrate on taking slow and deep breaths. Talk them through relaxation techniques, massage their back or head, listen to music, read them a story, or let them take a relaxing bath.
- Distracting your child. Engaging in casual talk, perhaps about a fun event that will be coming up soon. Play eye spy around the room or another mind-engaging game. Watch their favorite show with them.
- Engaging them in physical activity. Trampoline jumping, running, dancing, playing ball, or punching a bag. Help them to wear out the extra adrenaline.
Help Your Child Prevail
Overcoming anxiety in children takes a lot of parental patience. Panic attacks are certainly no fun for your child. Fortunately, the more you teach your child to use coping mechanisms, the quicker panic attacks will go away.
Though, if their attacks should persist, don’t hesitate to turn to a qualified professional to help you. Wherever you’re located in the country — from Minneapolis to Houston, from Miami to Portland — you can find trained counselors who provide child therapy.
If this article interested you, check out my article titled Is Your Child Anxious? 5 Things You Can Do to Help.
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