Helping a child with anxiety can be a difficult road to navigate. As parents, we often want to alleviate their anxiety so much that we accidentally exacerbate it. Here are 5 tips for helping your child manage and escape their anxiety, rather than avoiding it.
- Model healthy anxiety management.
Kids pay attention to how we as adults and parents manage our feelings, and they learn to model it. If we can acknowledge our own stress and anxiety, while showing ways we work through it, our kids will catch on to our confidence in our own abilities and mirror that confidence.
- Validate and respect their feelings.
It’s important that kid’s feel heard and respected, just as it is for adults. However, we don’t have to agree with their fears to validate them. Focus on listening to what they’re saying, repeating back what they’re most anxious about and validating that, then encourage them that they can face that fear and you’ll be there to support them.
- Don’t avoid anxiety triggers.
It can be tempting to avoid things that trigger a child’s anxiety, and it will probably ease their anxiety for a time. However, it eventually reinforces the anxiety and that avoiding it is their only option. Instead, help them manage their anxiety.
- Help them manage their anxiety, not eliminate it.
As stated in number three, we want to help kids manage their anxious feelings, not avoid them. This can be done through healthy coping skills, learning calming and mindfulness techniques, allowing emotional expression, and thinking things through.
- Be positive and realistic.
Try to avoid telling your child that certain things aren’t going to happen (because they might), but rather show confidence and build esteem in the fact that whatever does happen, they will be able to handle it and manage their emotional state.
By Susie Lee, LMFT