Everyday life is tough for a child wrestling with anxiety.
If your child is constantly worried, on edge, and upset, life can be tough for you as well. You want more than anything to keep them safe and believe that they feel safe too. Your hope is that they can grow up confident in themselves and their ability to cope with the world.
It can be upsetting to feel that sending your child to school, a friend’s house, or into a new situation is enough to cause them intense distress.
So what’s the best course of action? What helps? What makes things worse?
Let’s explore several strategies that can help you soothe, encourage, and support calm and confidence when you’re not around.
1. Make Opening Up Okay
Often children hide or suffer their anxiety alone despite exhibiting signs of fear or distress. Let your child know that your job is to help and hear them out. Share that you often worry and feel anxious too and that you are available if they want to share similar feelings.
2. Avoid Judging, Minimizing, or Dismissal
Respect your child’s fears. Take their feelings seriously and discuss them soberly. Give your child’s thoughts and emotions the weight and consideration they deserve. After all, anything that distresses your child matters.
3. Reason Through Their Cache of Concerns
Talk things through, explore and explain aspects of their worries clearly and logically. For example, if your child fears everyone at school hates them, walk them through the day they were invited to a birthday party. Or ask them to recall how a friend called to check on them when they were sick.
Perhaps even go through a few scenarios for the lunch room or bus ride to help them engage or respond in friendly, less anxious ways. Gently challenge their fearful assumptions.
4. Keep Your Cool
Anxiety is often contagious, especially between parent and child. While you feel for them, you don’t want to over-identify and communicate panic or upset. Try to remain collected and in control of your body and emotions. Demonstrate calm and try sharing breathing or other quieting techniques to help them self-soothe.
5. Resist the Urge to Rescue, Hover, or Coddle
Remember your role as a parent. You want to raise a confident, capable, resilient person. That cannot happen if you continually provide an escape from struggle and uncertainty. All this communicates to your child is that you see them as unable to overcome a difficulty or that they always need someone else to save them.
Teach them to recognize their fears but not surrender to it. Help them to stop avoiding fear and learn to advance through it instead. It’s okay to apply a bit of pressure, show them that they are strong and up to the challenge.
6. Help Your Child Maintain Perspective
Anxious feelings can become so prevalent in your child’s life that they may believe fear and worry are who they are. Help them understand that their challenges don’t define them. Fear can be conquered. Keep conversations about their anxiety solution-focused.
Discuss their strengths, talents, and relationships often. Help them verbally and emotionally separate their anxiety from their identity.
7. Develop a Fear-busting Task Force
Sometimes your own concerns, the severity of your child’s anxiety, or the need for more tools and support make additional help necessary. Acknowledging those things is perfectly okay and a sign that you are tuned into your child’s best interests. Surround yourselves with compassionate, trustworthy loved ones and helpers.
Most of all, don’t be afraid to reach out for therapeutic help too. I’m here to assist you, your child, and your family. Let’s work together to make changes for the sake of calm and emotional health. Please call soon for a consultation.