Anxiety is one of the most common mental health disorders in the United States, affecting between 10 and 20 percent of school-aged children. While it can be challenging to watch your child suffer from anxiety, there are many things you can do to help. This article offers advice from a childhood anxiety disorder specialist and shares personal stories of families dealing with anxiety.
Affirm that their feelings and experiences are valid. Many children don’t understand what is happening to them and believe that they are imagining things, but their thoughts and feelings are real. If your child is old enough, it may help to explain that anxiety is a natural part of life and can make us feel scared or worried, but it is important to know that there are ways to cope with these feelings.
Rather than telling your child to “stop being afraid” or telling them that there is nothing to fear, try to encourage them to face their fears. Helping them come up with a plan to do this is often the best way to go. For example, if they are afraid of dogs, you might start with pictures of a dog and work your way up to meeting a dog in person, letting them decide how close to be. It is important to allow them the time and space they need for each step, as some kids will need more time than others to overcome their anxiety.
It is also important to avoid over-scheduling your child, as this can increase their stress levels and lead to an anxious reaction. Instead, focus on helping them develop daily routines and rituals that are soothing for them. This could include things like reading a favourite book, going for a walk or listening to music. For some children, a memento of a relaxing place can help them feel calm, such as a pebble from a beach or a photo from their holiday.
If you notice that your child is struggling with anxiety, it is a good idea to seek professional help. There are many different treatment options, from psychotherapy to medication. You can find more information on how to get help for your child’s anxiety by visiting our Mental Health Resources page.
Anxiety is a normal part of life for most people, but it can be overwhelming in some cases and make someone unable to function normally. Fortunately, anxiety is treatable and with the right support, your child can overcome their fears and learn to be less anxious in the future. If you have any questions about anxiety or want more advice, our expert therapists are here to help. You can reach out to a therapist directly through our Live Chat feature, or you can give us a call at 1-844-GOT-THERE (468-7839). We look forward to hearing from you!