Whether your child struggles with anxiety disorder or simply has moments of fear and worry, it can be frustrating for all involved. As a parent, you can help them navigate these choppy waters with the support of some compassion and effective tips.
1. Recognize what’s bothering them.
It’s important to identify a specific source of anxiety so you can address it with your child. For example, if they are worried about not being able to make the baseball team or being afraid of intruders coming into their room at night, talk with them about ways they can manage these fears. It’s also important to remind them that hiding feelings only makes them worse and that it is much better to be honest and communicate them.
2. Don’t overprotect them.
Many well-meaning parents try to protect their anxious kids from the things that scare them, but overprotection can actually make their anxiety worse. Instead, help your child learn to tolerate their anxiety and slowly the fears will diminish over time.
3. Be clear about what you expect from them.
It is crucial to express positive, but realistic expectations of your children in an age-appropriate way, so they know what to expect in their life. When there are gaps in their understanding, they will fill them with inaccurate beliefs that will lead to anxiety.
4. Encourage them to engage in daily routines and rituals.
Having a set schedule can be comforting for children who experience anxiety, and routines can provide them with the stability they need to feel secure. It’s important to avoid overscheduling your kids, but at the same time, you should encourage them to participate in activities that allow them to spend time with friends and get enough physical activity.
5. Teach them to calm themselves using simple relaxation techniques.
Anxiety can be physically uncomfortable, so teach your child some simple self-soothing techniques, like deep breathing, to keep their body relaxed. For instance, asking them to think about five things they can see, four things they can touch, three things they can hear, two things they can smell and one thing they can taste can help reduce some of their physical sensations.
Anxiety is normal, but when it becomes severe and interferes with your child’s daily life, a therapist may be needed. A therapist can help your child understand their anxiety, challenge unhelpful thoughts and find treatment options that will work for them. In addition, a therapist can help you and other caregivers learn the skills you need to support your child and keep them engaged in their treatment. So, if you haven’t already, make an appointment with your local therapist to discuss how you can best help your child. They can help you create a plan that will support their long-term wellbeing. They can also advise you on the difference between normal anxiety and an anxiety disorder. Then you can determine together if your child needs to see a specialist for further evaluation and treatment.