Set Realistic Expectations To Help Your Child Deal With Anxiety
During an anxiety phase, you may be tempted to have your child unrealistic positive expectations. You may want to assure your kid that he wont fall during their ice skating practise, but these false hopes may not last long. Instead, the next time your child is anxious, tell them that you wont ask them to do something that they cant handle.
How To Ease Normal Separation Anxiety
For children with normal separation anxiety, there are steps you can take to make the process of separation anxiety easier.
Practice separation. Leave your child with a caregiver for brief periods and short distances at first. As your child gets used to separation, you can gradually leave for longer and travel further.
Schedule separations after naps or feedings. Babies are more susceptible to separation anxiety when theyre tired or hungry.
Develop a quick goodbye ritual. Rituals are reassuring and can be as simple as a special wave through the window or a goodbye kiss. Keep things quick, though, so you can:
Leave without fanfare. Tell your child you are leaving and that you will return, then godont stall or make it a bigger deal than it is.
Follow through on promises. For your child to develop the confidence that they can handle separation, its important you return at the time you promised.
Keep familiar surroundings when possible and make new surroundings familiar. Have the sitter come to your house. When your child is away from home, encourage them to bring a familiar object.
Have a consistent primary caregiver. If you hire a caregiver, try to keep them on the job long term to avoid inconsistency in your childs life.
Minimize scary television. Your child is less likely to be fearful if the shows you watch are not frightening.
Tips For Parenting Anxious Children
Many well-meaning parents try to protect anxious kids from their fears, but overprotecting can actually make anxiety worse. Here are pointers for helping kids cope with anxiety without reinforcing it.
1. Don’t try to eliminate anxiety do try to help a child manage it.The best way to help kids overcome anxiety is to help them learn to tolerate it as well as they can. Over time the anxiety will diminish.
2. Don’t avoid things just because they make a child anxious.Helping children avoid the things they are afraid of will make them feel better in the short term, but it reinforces the anxiety over the long run.
3. Express positivebut realisticexpectations.Don’t promise a child that what she fears won’t happenthat you know she won’t fail the testbut do express confidence that she’ll be able to manage whatever happens.
4. Respect her feelings, but don’t empower them.Validating feelings doesn’t mean agreeing with them. So if a child is terrified about going to the doctor, do listen and be empathetic, but encourage her to feel that she can face her fears. 5. Don’t ask leading questions.Encourage your child to talk about her feelings, but try not to ask leading questions: “Are you anxious about the big test? Instead, ask open-ended questions: “How are you feeling about the science fair?”6. Don’t reinforce the child’s fears.Avoid suggesting, with your tone of voice or body language: “Maybe this is something that you should be afraid of.”
You May Like: What’s The Phobia Of Long Words
Tips For Helping Children With Anxiety
Mental health professionals agree that almost all cases of childhood anxiety can be handled productively without the use of medication. Below are some helpful tips for helping children who are dealing with anxiety. Whether its typical, age-appropriate anxiety or something more significant, all these approaches help:
Understand theyre not intentinally misbehaving.
Recognize that worry and anxiety in a child is not intentional misbehavior on their part. Its how theyre dealing with things that theyre scared of and dont have the tools to handle yet.
They need to know you understand.
Validate the feelings of the child in question. Real anxiety wont go away by an adult simply saying dont worry about that. It takes active listening on the part of the adult to understand whats going on. When the child feels heard, theyll be more likely to get on board with an adults suggestions about how to deal with worry and fear, i.e. anxiety.
They need your help.
Keep a steady hand.
Be consistent with rules and outcomes. A child who doesnt know what to expect from the adults in their life might justifiably develop worry and fear about how they will react to things.
Manage your own expectations.
Try To Model Healthy Ways Of Handling Anxiety
There are multiple ways you can help kids handle anxiety by letting them see how you cope with anxiety yourself. Kids are perceptive, and theyre going to take it in if you keep complaining on the phone to a friend that you cant handle the stress or the anxiety. Im not saying to pretend that you dont have stress and anxiety, but let kids hear or see you managing it calmly, tolerating it, feeling good about getting through it.
You May Like: What Are The Three Stages Of Schizophrenia
The Goal Isnt To Eliminate Anxiety But To Help A Child Manage It
None of us wants to see a child unhappy, but the best way to help kids overcome anxiety isnt to try to remove stressors that trigger it. Its to help them learn to tolerate their anxiety and function as well as they can, even when theyre anxious. And as a byproduct of that, the anxiety will decrease or fall away over time.
Help Your Child Face Their Fears
This is the fine line every parent, caregiver and teacher must walk with a child struggling with anxiety. You must respect the child’s fear, but that does not mean giving in to the fear.
“I think our initial reaction when we see an anxious child is to help them and protect them and not to push them or encourage them to do the things that they’re afraid of,” Pine says. But, he adds, one of the things researchers have learned from years of studying anxiety in children is “how important it is to face your fears.”
This might be hard for some parents to hear, but we heard it from every expert we interviewed. As to why it’s important to face your fears, Lewis says, “the more that you avoid or don’t do certain things, it’s almost implicitly teaching the child that there is a reason to be anxious or afraid if we’re not doing the things that are difficult. It’s sending this message that, ‘Oh well, there is potentially a dangerous component to this.’ ”
So it’s important, Lewis says, “that children understand that things are gonna be difficult in life. Things can be scary. We can do them. … I tell some of my patients, ‘You can feel scared. That’s OK. We’re gonna do it anyway.’ “
And Truglio agrees. While we do have to validate our kids’ feeling of fearfulness, she says, “we can’t always give in to this feeling. … You need to push them a little bit. And there’s this fine line: You can’t push so far, because that’s going to break them, right? They’re going to fall apart even more.”
Also Check: Phenomenological Psychiatry
When Should I Seek Professional Help For My Anxious Child
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics and our experts, you should consult a psychologist or psychiatrist with experience treating children with an anxiety disorder when the childs behavior or anxiety:
- Disrupts the household and interferes with family activities and life
- When the child gets upset multiple times a day or week
- When the frequency and intensity of the fears escalate .
- When the anxiety leads to significant avoidance behavior. The child continually and consistently makes excuses to avoid school or other situations that may provoke anxiety.
- When the disorder is making it difficult for the child to interact with, make or keep friends.
- When sleep habits are disrupted
- When you begin to see compulsive behaviors and rituals such as repeated hand washing, counting, checking things and when the child refuses or is unable to leave the house without performing these rituals.
- When your child shows a pattern of physical symptoms that are disruptive and detrimental to the child
- When your child experiences panic attacks characterized by heart palpitations, sweating, nausea, hyperventilation.
Childhood Anxiety Can Worsen As Children Grow How Can You Help Your Child Manage Anxiety On Their Own
When childhood anxiety is heightened, its natural for parents to go into protection mode. Parents may attempt to solve problems for the child, help their child avoid triggers of anxiety, and/or try to engineer a worry-free lifestyle. While there are certain accommodations that can help anxious children in the classroom, and its a good idea to slow the daily pace to decrease overall stress for anxious children, parents cannot protect their kids from experiencing anxiety. What they can do is help their children learn to manage anxiety.
Set Clear Expectations
Its important to have similar expectations for anxious children that you have for non-anxious children. However, it can also be helpful to proceed at a slower pace and make some accommodations. While your other kids likely want to attend every birthday party, your anxious child probably wants to avoid them all. In this situation, it may be helpful to attend small parties that dont include overwhelming triggers .Setting clear expectations and helping your child create appropriate benchmarks to meet those expectations teaches your child that she/he can work through anxious feelings and manage their anxiety.
Let Your Child Worry
- Name a worry floating around in your brain right now.
- What is the worry telling you?
- Lets break it down and see if that worry is 100% right.
- How can we take that worry thought and change it to a positive thought?
Help Them Build a Coping Kit
- Deep breathing
Don’t Miss: Does Pristiq Help With Anxiety
What Makes Young People Anxious
A young person may feel anxious for a number of different reasons, depending on the individual. If your child is feeling unmanageable amounts of worry and fear, this is often a sign that something in their life isnt right and they need support to work out what the problem is.
The following kinds of things can make some children and young people feel more anxious:
- experiencing lots of change in a short space of time, such as moving house or school
- having responsibilities that are beyond their age and development, for example caring for other people in their family
- being around someone who is very anxious, such as a parent
- struggling at school, including feeling overwhelmed by work, exams or peer groups
- experiencing family stress around things like housing, money and debt
- going through distressing or traumatic experiences in which they do not feel safe, such as being bullied or witnessing or experiencing abuse.
This video by Braive is a useful way of understanding how stress and anxiety can build up in a person’s life.
Why Is My Child Anxious
Some children are more likely to have worries and anxiety than others.
Children often find change difficult and may become anxious following a house move or when starting a new school.
Children who have had a distressing or traumatic experience, such as a car accident or house fire, may suffer from anxiety afterwards.
Family arguments and conflict can also make children feel insecure and anxious.
Teenagers are more likely to suffer with social anxiety than other age groups, avoiding social gatherings or making excuses to get out of them.
Find out more about social anxiety.
Read Also: Is Tequila A Stimulant Or Depressant
When Should We Get Help
If your child’s anxiety is severe, persists, and interferes with their everyday life, it’s a good idea to get some help.
A visit to a GP is a good place to start. If your child’s anxiety is affecting their school life, it’s a good idea to talk to their school as well.
Parents and carers can get help and advice about children’s mental health from Young Minds’ free parent helpline on , from Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 4pm.
Find out more about treatments on our page about anxiety disorders in children.
Distinguish Between Real Threats And False Alarms
Talk to your child about how anxiety is meant to keep them safe. For instance, if they were being chased by a lion, their brain would signal to their body that they’re in danger. They would notice changes in their body like sweaty palms and an increased heart rate. They would get an immediate rush of energy as they prepare to bolt from the lion .
Then tell them there are also times when their brain triggers a false alarm. These false alarms can cause them to feel intense fear over situations that are far from life-or-death. False alarms can include situations like trying out for the basketball team, speaking in front of a lot of people, or preparing for a big test.
When they’re anxious, ask, Is your brain giving you a real alarm right now or a false alarm? Then, help them decide what action to take.
Explain that if its a real threat, they should listen to those alarm bells and take action to keep themselves safe. But if its a false alarm, its a good idea to face their fears.
Read Also: Does Pristiq Help With Anxiety
Work On Friendship Skills
While you cant make friends for your child, you can help your child practice friendship skills. Practice these skills using role play and modeling to help your child feel at ease with peers:
- Sliding in and out of groups
- Conversation starters
- Asking follow up questions/making follow up statements
Natural Anxiety Medications For Anxiety Disorders
Regular sleep, physical activity, relaxation techniques, and a healthy diet may help reduce anxiety in some cases. However, psychotherapies and medications can be more beneficial. Some herbal medications are also known to reduce anxiety. However, more studies are required to evaluate their risk and benefits. These medications may include
- Kava kava
Dietary and herbal supplements are not monitored by the Food and Drug Administration as drugs. So, you cant be sure about the safety of many of these medications. It is recommended to inform the childs doctor before giving alternative medications since some can interfere with prescription medications.
You May Like: Eating Disorders Essay Outline
Validate Your Child’s Fear
We heard from lots of parents who say they really struggle to know how to respond when their kids worry about unlikely things especially if the fear is getting in the way of a busy daily routine, maybe a fun family outing or sleep.
“She comes down. It’s 2 a.m. And she wakes me up,” says Amber, of Huntsville, Ala., about her 8-year-old daughter. “And she said, ‘I don’t want to go away to college. I want to live at home for college.’ And it’s 2 a.m. … That’s when I really have to filter and not say, ‘That is ridiculous. This is not a big deal!’ “
Amber’s filtered response was exactly right, says Truglio. Never dismiss a child’s worries, no matter how irrational they may seem. A parent’s priority, she says, should be “validating your child’s feelings and not saying, ‘Oh, you know, buck up. You can do this!’ That’s not helpful.”
Lewis, of the National Institute of Mental Health, has language for parents who in the moment may feel frustrated by a child’s behavior:
” ‘I know that you’re feeling uncomfortable right now. I know these are scary feelings.’ You want to personify the anxiety, and so you can almost say, ‘You know what, we know that this is our worry brain.’ ”
Lewis says it’s crucial that children feel heard and respected. Even if you’re pretty certain aliens aren’t going to take over the planet tomorrow, if your child is worried about it, you need to let your child know that you respect that fear.
Build Confidence With A Baby
Helping kids come up with a plan to face their fears is Lewis’ job. It’s called cognitive behavioral therapy, and a big part of that is exposure therapy.
Lewis says she once worked with an 8-year-old who was terrified of vomiting.
“We did a lot of practice, which included buying vomit spray off Amazon and vomit-flavored jelly beans,” she recalls. “We listened to all types of fun vomit sounds using YouTube video. We did a lot of practicing up to the point where we created fake vomit, and we were in the bathroom and just pretending to vomit.”
And Lewis says that baby step after baby step, the girl made important progress.
“One of her peers had vomited in the classroom. And she comes into session, and she was just like, ‘Someone vomited in my class, and I ran to the corner of the classroom’ and was just like, ‘I didn’t leave the classroom!’ … She was very proud of the progress she was making. In the past, she would have run out of the classroom to the counselor’s office and then missed school for, like, the next week.”
Lewis says parents can use rewards to celebrate their kids when they make progress think small but meaningful rewards like letting your child pick dinner that night or the movie for family movie night.
Obviously, these takeaways are just a starting point for concerned families. For more helpful takeaways about how to identify and manage childhood anxiety, Pine and Lewis recommend a handful of books:
Don’t Miss: Late-onset Schizophrenia
Encourage Kids To Make Friends With Their Worry
Jain and Tsabary say it isn’t helpful to tell children not to worry, even when it’s coming from a place of love. The authors believe “worry has purpose, worry has benefits, worry is good for you.” They encourage children to personify their anxiety: “When you are able to take a feeling that can be abstract and hard to wrap your head around, and you create a character and you personify it, that makes it concrete for kids,” Jain says.