It can be hard seeing your child suffer from anxiety. The worry and nervousness can be overwhelming.
However, as powerless as you may feel, there are things that you can do as a parent to help your anxious child.
1. Keep calm when your child feels anxious
One of the most important things that you can do as a parent to support your child is to stay calm. Children need to know that everything is OK. They probably feel that even more so than adults do. That’s because children rely on adults, especially their parents, for help.
So, if you are calm, you can be an enormously soothing influence for your child. Plus, staying calm will keep you from getting sucked into the anxiety your child is feeling, which only can make things worse for both of you.
2. Be an emotional role model for your anxious child
Whether or not you realise it, your child is watching you. This includes watching how you react to emotionally charged situations. If you can role model openness and communication to your child, they will pick up on that. In turn, when they are feeling stressed out from anxiety, they will know it is OK to talk with you.
On the other hand, if you don’t role model emotional skills to your child, the opposite will occur. If you don’t demonstrate effective emotional skills, your child will learn that it is never acceptable to talk about their feelings at all. And that is not the message you want to send!
However, if you are struggling with anxiety–perhaps over your anxious child–then you are role-modelling that behaviour, too. In such an instance, it’s essential that you address your own anxiety first. Then you will show your child it is possible to overcome anxiety, and provide a positive role model for the future, too.
3. Listen to your child
Everyone wants to be listened to and understood, including your child. Even if they are too young to communicate high-level concepts, they can still tell you whether they feel happy or sad.
So, listen to your child. Take their concerns seriously. Try to understand why they feel anxious.
If you are having trouble relating to them, think. Consider your own fears and worries. Even if your child’s anxiety seems baseless to you, it is still real to them. Avoid discounting them or saying that they are being ridiculous. When you discount or dismiss your anxious child’s fears, they feel unheard, and their worries remain. When you acknowledge their feelings, even if they are irrational or unfounded, they are likely to feel you are with them and calm down.
4. Practice anxiety-soothing techniques together
Teach your child and practice with them some techniques that soothe anxiety.
For example, such things as:
- Breathing exercises
- Creating art
- Physical activity
- Positive thinking
When you do these things together, it helps your child develop and absorb these skills. They become more comfortable and relaxed by applying them.
Instead of feeling that they are alone, they recognise you are helping them. If you do these exercises from an early age, your child may not consider these exercises as specific for anxiety. Instead, they just see them as activities that you do together. They become part of your child’s routine.
5. Help your child feel in control
Anxiety can make anyone feel like they are out of control. For a child, in particular, this is very frightening.
You can help your child by reminding them they are in control. Even when their anxiety is at its height, let them know that they have the power to control it. Let them know that even though they have anxiety, it isn’t who they are as a person. Rather, anxiety is simply something they must deal with. But that doesn’t mean that it has power over them. Breathing exercises are a quick win and proven to work. When they use such methods to self-soothe, they gain control.
What if your child continues to struggle with anxiety?
If your child is still having issues with anxiety after you make efforts to apply the suggestions above, consider getting professional help. A therapist trained to treat anxiety in children can be a great resource. They can teach both you and your child more and new skills to tackle anxiety. Also, they can help you both understand anxiety, making it less scary.
Anxiety is difficult for anybody. For children, though, it is particularly distressing. As a parent, it may seem at times as if you are powerless to help. Yet, that isn’t true!
You can significantly influence how your child copes with anxiety and tap into the experience a trained therapist can offer. Together, you and your child can beat anxiety.
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