Parenting Tip of the Month: 8 Ways to Help your Anxious Child
Many kids struggle with anxiety at one point or another. Some of the common types of anxiety impacting children are social anxiety, school anxiety, OCD, test anxiety, separation anxiety, and general phobias. As a parent, it can feel overwhelming to watch your child deal with anxiety and you are likely to want to help. Here are some tips that can help you assist your child in managing his/her anxious feelings.
1. Encourage your child to talk about their feelings
Children are often unsure how to communicate how they are feeling. If you notice signs that your child might worried or anxious, talk with them and encourage them to share with you their thoughts and feelings. It can help to share some of the fears you had as a child or fears that other kids their age may experience. Make sure to listen to and normalize their experience.
2. Teach your child about anxiety
Share with your child the common signs and symptoms of anxiety as well as the potential triggers.
3. Help your child recognize anxiety
Help your child become more in tune with their body, thoughts and feelings. Help them identify their specific symptoms and triggers so that they can be more aware of when they are feeling anxious. (Use the tool on the back of this page to help them identify where anxiety affects them).
4. Establish and maintain a routine
A consistent routine can reassure kids and help them to feel safe and secure. If you have to stray from the routine, try to give them advanced notice so that they can prepare.
5. Set realistic expectations
Make sure that as a parent, you are setting realistic expectation for your child.
6. Be supportive
While reassuring your child with statements like, “it’s OK, there is nothing to worry about,” often falls on deaf ears, you can be supportive by stopping, listening, and empathizing with their feelings and experience. It is also important to note that being supportive does not mean helping your child avoid situations that evoke anxiety. Instead, be supportive by helping them develop coping skills to aid in managing any overwhelming anxiety.
7. Model and teach healthy coping skills
Help your child by teaching them various coping mechanisms, both when they are feeling anxious and when they are calm. Things like deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and imagery can help them manage their feelings. There are many resources, including apps, that help kids learn and practice various skills. Sometimes kids may need to engage in one or two coping skills before they feel their anxiety is reduced to a more manageable level. And remember, you are also the best model for how to cope. Make sure that you are practicing what you teach.
8. Get support from a professional
When in doubt, don’t be afraid to seek professional support for you or your child. Individual and/or family therapy can not only provide a safe space to explore anxiety but can also be a great place to learn specific tools to help your child cope.