PARENTING A CHILD WITH ANXIETY CAN BE VERY CHALLENGING.
On one hand, you want to help your child. On the other hand, their anxiety and behavior can become overwhelming.
For example, if your child has separation anxiety, you might find it difficult to get out the door each day. This can put a strain on you just as the day is getting off to a start. Day after day, it adds up.
Of course, you want the best for your child. This can lead to much stress on you. You start to feel bad about your own stress or reactions to their anxiety. A cycle of anxiety can often occur in families that can be hard on all members.
The good news is that there are things you can do to help both you and your child.
LEARN ABOUT CHILD ANXIETY
The most frustrating thing for parents is when they don’t understand what is going on with their child. Learning more about your child’s anxiety can help you understand how to help them.
THERE ARE SEVERAL TYPES OF ANXIETY THAT YOUR CHILD MIGHT EXPERIENCE:
- Separation anxiety; the child doesn’t want to be away from the parents
- Social anxiety; debilitating shyness and fear of being around others
- Panic disorder; panic attacks that may include nausea and shortness of breath
- Specific phobias; for example, extreme fear of animals or loud sounds
- Generalized anxiety; excessive worry, which may cause problems with sleeping, concentration, and behavior
Figuring out what type of anxiety your child has is a good start. You can get a sense of what anxiety is like for them. Plus, you can learn specific strategies to help.
MODEL CALM CONFIDENCE
One of the best things that you can do for your child is to model the behavior you want to see.
Instead of anxiety, you want to see your child acting calmly and confidently. Therefore, you need to model this yourself.
You want to project the attitude that you know your child can handle the situation.
Be realistic. You can’t promise your child that they will have fun at a birthday party. However, you can let them know that whatever happens, it will be okay.
SOME EXAMPLES OF THIS PARENTAL SUPPORT INCLUDE:
- Listen to their feelings without judgment.
- Let them know that you believe in them.
- Help them build and use skills, such as deep breathing, to reduce anxiety.
- Come up with step-by-step plans for coping with the situation.
- Remind them that you love them unconditionally.
MANAGE YOUR OWN ANXIETY
Of course, you can “fake it ‘til you make it” but it really helps if you truly are calm and confident. To be that way, you need to deal with your own anxiety.
You may already have anxiety yourself. Alternatively, dealing with your child’s anxiety might have caused your own.
WORK TO ADDRESS YOUR OWN FEARS, WHICH MAY INCLUDE:
- Stranger danger
- Fear that your child won’t make friends
- Worry that your child’s feelings will be hurt
- Concern that your child’s behavior reflects poorly on you as a parent
- Worry that anxiety will limit their life forever
Your child will pick up on it if you have anxiety, and it will only exacerbate their own. You can find ways to overcome your own anxiety. This, in turn, will go a long way towards helping your child overcome theirs.
Therapy can help you and your child with anxiety. We offer anxiety therapy for adults or child therapy to help you and your child deal with anxiety. Contact us to learn more about how we can offer support.