How to help your child deal with anxiety
Updated: Apr 26, 2019
There is nothing worse than seeing your child struggle. Whether it is with their nightly homework or learning a new skill, you likely do what you can to ensure they succeed. Struggling with anxious feelings is no different, but it can be very challenging to know what you should or shouldn’t do for your child when they seem to be struggling with anxiety. In a previous post, we discussed seven common signs of anxiety in children, and today, we will review a few simple things you can do to help an anxious child. Let’s look at them now.
Do’s and Don’ts to Help Your Child Beat Anxiety
Don’t Enable Avoidance
Avoidance is one of the most common coping mechanisms that people who struggle with anxiety use, for both adults and children. While this does help control our physiological response to certain events, it does not reduce anxiety levels. Encouraging your child to face their fears head-on will help reduce their anxiety levels over time.
Don’t Over-Schedule Your Child
You want your child to succeed — that is just part of being a great parent. However, all too often, children’s days are often a blur of school and family-related activities that leave them feeling over-stimulated at the end of the day. It is important to keep your child engaged, but just like us, their bodies and brains need downtime in order to work their best.
Don’t Brush Off Your Child’s Feelings
Children often have irrational fears and worries. While it can seem silly or frustrating to parents, this is actually a part of their natural emotional development. Rather than brushing off your child’s feelings, take the time to validate their feelings in the moment by talking to them about what they are feeling and what they are worried about.
Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Good Sleep Hygiene
Ensuring that your child gets plenty of good quality sleep at night is one of the best things you can do to help them combat anxiety. This means setting a bedtime and sticking to it every day, along with developing some sort of bedtime routine. This will help ensure your child has a smooth transition from their busy day in order to be relaxed enough to fall asleep.
Tell Your Child No One Is Perfect
As adults, we have a tendency to put a lot of pressure on ourselves to be the best at everything — the best employee, the best spouse, the best parent, etc. Children often put the same pressures on themselves when it comes to their schoolwork, sports, and relationships with their friends. It can be even worse if they feel like you expect perfection in all of these areas, causing them to feel unnecessary anxiety. Be sure to tell your child often that no one is perfect and be sure to accept and embrace your child’s mistakes.
Focus on the Positive
The racing thoughts that come along with anxiety are one of the biggest challenges for children (and adults) to overcome. Often times, these racing thoughts are full of self-criticism and negativity. Taking the time to focus on the positive with your child can go a long way in helping them beat anxiety. This can be as simple as recognizing your child’s positive attributes verbally with them on a regular basis or highlighting the silver lining of a seemingly negative situation. Doing this often enough can influence your child’s outlook.
Demonstrate Self Care and Positive Thinking
Children often mimic what they see their parents doing. If you or your spouse struggles with anxiety, it can be very challenging to model positive behavior and thought processes for your children. For example, if your child sees you avoiding situations that trigger an anxiety response, they will learn that this is an appropriate way to handle anxiety. However, if you gather the courage that it takes to practice self-care and positive thinking on a regular basis, this will provide your child with a positive example to model their behavior and thoughts after.
Stay Calm and Remain Vigilant
When your child is in the midst of an anxiety attack, it is hard to keep your own emotions at bay and not feel anxious yourself. Remember that children often base their reaction to a situation based on how their parents react. The best thing you can do when your child is anxious is to remain calm no matter how anxious you are feeling. The situations that trigger your child’s anxiety may change throughout the years, so it is also important that you remain vigilant in your approach, even if it feels like you are always putting out fires.
Always keep in mind...
Step number one in dealing with a mental health issue is reaching out for professional help (Psychiatrist, Psychologist, Therapist, etc.).
The information provided on this website is for educational purposes only.
It is not for diagnosing, prognosticating, treatment or prescribing of mental health conditions.
For the treatment of any mental health condition or disease, or drug therapy, please consult your physician or other healthcare providers.
If you are experiencing a mental health crisis please call 911 or visit your hospital immediately.
When you’re in a place in your life where you can make positive changes, the techniques Jeremy delivers on this website, in his presentations and in his books may help.