Tips On How To Handle Anxiety In Children
While we are certainly not experts I am sharing some of the tips we have tried with Jude and some that we are hoping to implement still.
Don’t avoid things just because they make a child anxious:
We always want to protect our children but sometimes protecting them from everything that makes them anxious is a bad thing. This action reinforces the anxiety over the long run and lets the anxiety cycle continue.
Respect the child’s feelings, but don’t empower them:
Listen and be empathetic to the child’s fear, worry or anxiety but let them hear that they CAN face their fears. Send the message that you hear them, and it is okay that they are scared but that they will get through this situation.
Don’t ask leading questions:
I am so guilty of this. We want to start conversations with our kids and at times we know what is bothering them or on their mind so it is second nature to ask about those fears or worries. Encourage the child to talk about their worries and fears but do now put the worries in their mind. Open ended questions over leading questions.
Allow Them to Worry:
Worrying is not a weakness, let them worry. We all know that kids and adults will continue to worry even after you tell them not too! So don’t say that! Easier said than done. Build in “worry time” for your child. This puts a limit to the amount of worrying but still lets them feel their feelings. Depending on the age of the child a worry box could be made for a great activity – decorate a worry box and during worry time there are no rules on what constitutes a valid worry – anything goes. When the time is up, close the box and say good-bye to the worries for the day.
Highlight Why Worrying is Good:
Teach your child that worrying has a purpose, there is not something “wrong” with your child. Worry is a protection mechanism. Worry rings an alarm in our system and helps us survive danger. Over the years, human danger has changed a lot but it is still important to teach your kids that worry is perfectly normal, it can help protect us, and everyone experiences it from time to time. Sometimes this worrying can be false worry and that is when we have to use techniques to deal with the false alarms.
Plan for transitions:
Busy mornings, school drop off, prep for church, heading to a play-date – all situations that can be seen as pleasant but also filled with anxiety. Allow plenty of time to transition into new experiences and environments if these situations have been worrisome in the past. Be planful for your child.
Stay calm when your child becomes anxious:
This can be a difficult tip to master for anyone but especially parents. Step back and remember the above tips and let your child worry. Do not belittle or talk down to them, this will only make the situation more anxious and worrisome for the parties involved.