I decided to write about how to help your children with anxiety as I have 2 girls (ages 11 and 8) who show some anxiety. Whether it’s being worried about bedtime if someone isn’t sitting in the living room by the bedroom or worrying about a red mark on their skin, they go through it. Just like us adults.
Maybe they got their anxiety or worrisome personality from me as genetics could play a role. Or maybe because they see their own mother dealing with anxiety. I won’t fully know why they are a bit anxious, but it is something I need to deal with NOW and to get them learning how to cope with their fears.
Sadly though, many children in this day and age deal with some sort of anxiety. It is also a topic not widely spoken about which I feel should be so that we can help children at a young age through their anxieties. This way as adults, because of early intervention, they will have the coping skills to deal with their anxiety.
NOW, we don’t want to help our child by FULLY avoiding what it is they fear. This is just reinforcing and fueling their anxiety. It also makes them miss out on coping skills that can prepare them in the future to be able to deal with their anxious thoughts and feelings the next time it comes up. This is why I have outlined some easy tips to help your anxious child.
How to Help Your Children with Anxiety – TIPS
With anxiety comes some unwanted physical affects like hyperventilating. Encourage your child to slow down and take some deep breaths in order to calm their physical affects. Practice breathing techniques together (great idea if you suffer from anxiety as well!). Once the child is in a calmer state, then you can move on to what it is they are anxious or worried about.
Create a set “Worry Time:”
Set a designated time for when the child can worry. This way their fears don’t consume their entire day. Make it a daily ritual if possible. Use the designated “worry time” for the child to write down or draw what it is they are anxious about. Make sure though to keep this “worry time” limited to about 10-15 minutes max. What they write or draw can then be placed in a special “worry box.” Close the box and say goodbye to those worries for the day.
There is a technique called laddering. Don’t completely shut out their fears. Break their fears down into steps / manageable chunks and help them slowly make their way towards the goal. For example, swimming. If they fear water, have them one time sit by the pool to get a feel for it, see other kids playing and having fun, etc. Then the next time slowly have them just sit and put their feet in the water. This is continued until the goal of the child going into the pool fully is achieved. PS: Don’t expect this to be quick. It will take time.
Always Encourage Positive Thinking:
Kids naturally dwell on the worst case scenerios or “what ifs.” Help the child shift their thinking patterns. How? Remind them how they dealt in the past with a similar issue and how everything turned out to be okay. Challenge scary thoughts with actual facts. Make a plan for how they will respond if things don’t go as planned.
Do NOT Let Them Give Up:
Anxious kids often times will worry about making mistakes or not doing things perfectly that they end up sitting out from a game or project in order to not have to deal with a possible failure. Tell them that giving new things (or old) another try is a win in itself for just trying! Whether success or failure, no one is perfect.
Be the Coping Model:
Don’t just tell your child, but show them how to overcome their emotions. When you’re stressed or anxious yourself, show them how you are “coping” by being verbal while getting through it.
Help Them Take Charge:
Try to find a way to make your child feel they are in control over a scary situation. Not vice versa. For example, my daughter is scared of “intruders” coming into the house when she is sleeping. We explain to her how we lock all doors and windows and have a house alarm. Making a bedtime routine out of it helps. If your child suffers from the same worry, have them every night before bedtime lock doors and windows with you as well as turn on the alarm for the night.
Be Straight Forward About Fears:
Some kids worry about death, war, bad weather, just about anything and everything, especially when it is something they have seen on the news. Firstly, this is all NORMAL. Talk through their fears with them. Answer any and all questions they may have. Also, do not try to sugar coat any facts. Be as straight forward as possible. This helps them put their fears into perspective.
Lastly, Check Your OWN Behavior:
Kids tend to sense when a parent is anxious, worried or stressed. They feed off of these feelings. Think about the messages you are sending your kids when you yourself are not in the best state. Read more about that HERE. Also, there are parents who are “over-protective” of their children which can reinforce the child’s fear and worries by making them feel that the world is a dangerous place. Then there are parents who over help their child subconsciously telling them that they can’t do anything without a parents support. All this needs to change if that is happening!
As you can see from the above, just these simple steps can help YOU help YOUR children with anxiety. Try as best as you can to apply these tips to your child’s daily life. Slowly but surely they will learn how to cope automatically and will be able to manage their anxiety.
Save for Later, PIN IT!
Photo Credits: Pexels