Is Your Child Anxious? 5 Things You Can Do to Help
No parent wants to see their child suffer, and anxiety is one of the hardest things a parent can watch their child go through. It makes you as a parent anxious, which in turn reinforces those feelings.
While anxiety is the top mental health problem faced by children and teens, fortunately, it is also the most treatable. Anxiety in children is not usually something that is grown out of: unless they get help from parents and/or professionals to learn the coping skills they need, they will “grow into” their fears instead.
So what to do to help your child live his or her best life?
How to Help Your Anxious Child
1. Remember that avoidance is not the answer
You can’t promise your child an anxiety-free life. Anxiety is a natural part of life that sometimes helps us to make good decisions, like avoiding danger, or pushes us to work harder. But when it gets too strong, it inhibits us from living our lives. So, if you remove everything that makes your child unhappy, you’ll only make your child feel better in the short term. Instead, you should help your child learn to function through the anxiety. We’ll talk more about that below.
2. Be both positive and realistic
You can’t make promises that you can keep. Sometimes the thing making your child anxious will happen. Someone will laugh at her during gym class or he’ll fall ice skating at a friend’s birthday party. Maybe that test will be really hard and she won’t do very well on it. What you can do is tell your child that he or she will be okay and be supportive.
If you face your fears, they will become less frightening. You don’t want to give your child the impression he or she is going into something they can’t handle. You just want communicate that, no matter what happens, it’s not the end of the world and you can get through it! Once he or she sees that, yes, she has gotten through it, she will be less anxious about the next potentially unpleasant thing. Anxiety levels will become manageable and decrease over time.
Read more about how healthy communication with your teen can improve your relationship with your child.
3. No fear reinforcement
Children are extremely perceptive and pick up on behaviors modeled for them unconsciously. If you act stressed out around them or they overhear a phone conversation about not being able to handle something, they will soak this right up. Still, that’s not to say you should never show anxiety or stress around your children. In fact, it is very healthy for them to see an example of someone they trust functioning under stress as a model for how to deal with it themselves.
You also don’t want to reinforce their anxiety by acting worried about how your child will respond when put in a situation similar to one that made him or her upset. This sends a message to your child that this situation is something to fear.
Encourage your child to be open about his emotions, but never ask yes-or-no questions like “are you worried about X?” Instead, try “how do you feel about X?” Sometimes children have trouble finding words to describe their emotions. You might try drawing your feelings together to help them communicate with you!
4. Anticipation can lead to anxiety
While some adults might like having as much advance time to prepare, knowing too far in advance gives us more time to worry. Inevitable things, like trips to the doctor or dentist don’t need to be discussed too much in advance, which will just wind up your child.
5. Think it out
Help your child create an “thought and action plan.” If your child is has separation anxiety and is worried about not being picked up after school, help him think out what might happen and how he could act. This eliminates much of the fear of the unknown and helps children feel empowered to make good decisions! Routines help children feel secure, so having a plan will reduce anxiety.
Resources for Parents
Sometimes you need support as a parent when coping with challenges that children bring. Our motherhood support group can be a great resource for parents looking for new ways to deal with parenting, self-care, and establishing their own identity beyond motherhood.
Individual therapy in Houston can also help you learn how to cope better with new and old issues of raising children. Alex specializes in working with parents to learn coping skills to help with an anxious child and other child rearing and parenting issues.
To get started now give us a call to schedule an appointment at 832-559-2622 or schedule an appointment online.
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