Many children and teens battle anxiety every day in the U.S., but it can be difficult for parents to know the best ways to help. In fact, if you aren’t careful, you may be making the problem worse. The key is to focus on how to help your child cope with those feelings rather than trying to eliminate them altogether, and this takes patience and time.
Here are some of the best ways to help your child deal with anxiety in everyday situations.
Help them face it
While your first instinct may be to keep your child away from the things that trigger anxiety, it’s actually best in most cases to help your child face those things, instead. Avoidance will not keep anxious feelings at bay, but facing the fears and learning how to cope with them will. Talk to your child’s doctor about the best ways to help handle anxious feelings, such as using breathing exercises, and remember to stay calm when these situations arise. That isn’t always easy, but try to keep in mind that when a child is scared or anxious, they aren’t in a rational state of mind. Reasoning with them likely won’t work, which is why it’s important to find ways for your child to cope before a situation becomes an issue. Being prepared is half the battle, and it can prevent your child from turning to unhealthy means of coping when they’re older. If they are prescribed drugs, keep the medications locked up so you know exactly how much is being taken.
Help manage your child’s expectations
You may feel inclined to assure your child that their fears are unfounded, but it’s important to manage your expectations and help them do the same. Be realistic when talking to your child about their fears and help them prepare as much as possible so they will have the emotional tools to get through it. Explain that no matter what happens, they will be okay and that you’ll love them just the same.
Build your child’s confidence
Often, anxiety and worry are rooted in a lack of self-confidence. Help your child build their self confidence by joining a sports team or trying out martial arts. Encourage your child to be a leader by enrolling them in a scouts troop, and include your child in the decision-making at home. Even if it’s just to figure out what’s for dinner, this can help your child find and use their voice.
Truly listening to your child can help you understand where their fears are coming from; how you respond is equally important. Try and empathize with their worries, and refrain from using phrases like “Don’t worry” or “Don’t be afraid.” Let your child know it’s okay to be scared sometimes and that you can get through it together.
Talk about a plan
Sometimes, it helps to have a plan. If your child is overly anxious about something that’s out of their control, help them visualize what they would do if that situation ever did come about. Work out a plan from a couple of different angles and help your child think of ways to be successful in overcoming their fears.
Anxiety is more common in our children than we probably like to admit, but we can’t ignore it and hope it gets better on its own. They need our help, and as parents, we must be there to help them learn to overcome and manage these feelings.
Author: Noah Smith