Do you know how to help children with anxiety? Wait, what exactly is anxiety?
Simply stated, anxiety is stress. Not necessarily about what’s happening now, but what may happen in the future. Like a math test. Or band tryouts. Or fear of being rejected by a group of friends.
Anxiety disorders are very common today. Left untreated, they can disrupt both your children’s lives and yours. So, what can you do to help children with anxiety?
1. Take a look in the mirror.
Are you a worrier? If so, could your child be feeding off of your anxiety?
Don’t let your child be a victim of your fear. Get help for yourself. When your fear is under control, you can not only help your child overcome her fears; you will not inadvertently pass them along to her.
2. Listen to your child.
It’s extremely important to validate your child’s feelings, not minimize them. Say, “I can see how upset you are. Something seems to be bothering you.” Empathically listen to her response.
3. Help her find a solution.
As parents, we often try to fix our child’s problems for them. But don’t make this mistake. Encourage your child to come up with her own solution by saying, “You seem really afraid about recess tomorrow. What could you do if those girls don’t want you to play with them?” Doing so will help her find resolve.
4. Stand firm.
When upset, children often play on our emotions, asking us to bend rules. For example, if your child is worried about something at school, she may ask to stay home.
Don’t buy into her fears and let her manipulate you. Instead, stand firm while empathizing with the situation by saying, “I can see that you are nervous about going to school. But, it’s a school day, so you have to go.”
5. Take baby steps.
Don’t expect too much too soon. If your child is scared to fall asleep, for example, offer to stay in her room for 30 minutes the first three nights, and then start shortening the time. By gradually confronting her fears, your child will have more success conquering them.
6. Build her confidence.
Acknowledge her accomplishments. Using the example about falling asleep, you might say, “I can see how proud you are for sleeping in your room all night! I know how hard that has been for you.”
7. Reassure her.
Sometimes it’s hard to see things clearly—especially when you’re a child. They tend to think things will never change because they simply haven’t experienced enough life to know that they do.
Here’s where you can help. If your child continually stresses out over school or friends, reassure and encourage her that things will work out. Say, “I know it’s hard for you right now, but I am confident that you will figure everything out.”