If your child has anxiety, like any parent who wants what’s best for their child, you would move mountains to help them and ease their struggles. Although it can be common for children to experience anxiety, it doesn’t make you feel any better that your child has to suffer through it. It can leave you feeling frustrated or helpless to see your child in a state over situations that may not even seem so scary to you, but are genuinely threatening to them.
While there’s no magical cure to help get rid of your child’s anxious tendencies, there are steps you can take to help mitigate it and teach them to cope, and eventually overcome it altogether. Here’s how you can help your child tackle anxiety.
Talk to them and listen to what they have to say
Your child wants to be heard and wants their feelings to be validated, so be there for them to do just that. Unfortunately, a simple “don’t worry about it” won’t do, because your child can’t just ignore their feelings of worry, so instead, encourage them to explain.
Try not to ask any leading questions, but rather phrase your questions so they’re open-ended and allow your child to answer with their own words and thoughts. Good examples of open-ended questions are:
- What do you want?
- What do you need?
- What are you afraid of?
- What is making you nervous?
At the very least, this will open up a dialogue and allow you to better understand why your son or daughter feels the way they do in that moment. Usually, your child will respond with hypotheticals, like “what if the other kids don’t like me?” or “what if I can’t find my class and get lost?” You can help your child by mentally stepping back from a future that hasn’t happened yet and focus on the present. Encourage mindfulness and deep breathing for a few minutes to help them calm down.
Remind them that worrying can be good
Often times when your child is experiencing anxiety, they will talk themselves down and get into the headspace that because they’re anxious or worrying about something, there must be something wrong with them. Having anxiety about their anxiety is a real risk as well.
You can mitigate this by teaching your child that worrying can serve a purpose, and that it’s a protective mechanism. If they understand that being anxious about something is a perfectly normal reaction to feeling scared or nervous about a situation, they can realize that everyone experiences it now and again and they can overcome the feeling.
Turn to professionals for help
Sometimes the level of anxiety can become overwhelming and turn into a major issue for your child. Before it gets to a debilitating point (think regular panic attacks and disorders), try reaching out to professionals who can offer your child or teenager some help in dealing with and overcoming their anxiety. One example of treatment is a residential treatment program from a center like igniteteentreatment.com. Regular therapy sessions could help as well, and if your child is uncomfortable with going to therapy, try easing them into it by attending with them and showing them support.
With the intense social responsibilities and constant connectedness to the world via the Internet and social media, child and teen anxiety is growing, leading to more and more anxiety disorders in adults. Anxiety should not be overlooked, as it can severely impact your physical health, mental health, and ability to function regularly at school, at work, and around friends and other peers. Do your best to nip it in the bud before it becomes a huge problem, and offer support wherever you can.