Anxiety in children is much more common than many people realize – one in five children will experience clinical-level anxiety. However, there are specific techniques and methods that can help children deal with their anxiety in healthy and beneficial ways. It is essential for parents – as well as teachers and caregivers – to be prepared with these tools in order to best help their children manage anxiety.
By keeping these six tips in mind, you can give your child the tools necessary to not only deal with their anxiety, but to overcome it.
Don't Avoid Things Just Because They Make a Child Anxious
When a child is triggered by something and experiences an anxiety attack from being around it, removing the trigger may seem like an easy solution to combat the child's negative feelings. However, this isn't always the best idea.
By avoiding triggers, they never learn how to cope with their anxiety. Avoiding things that make the child uncomfortable can actually feed their anxiety in the long run. It is more beneficial to help children learn how to deal with these triggers, rather than avoid them.
Express Positive But Realistic Expectations
Sometimes, a child's anxiety is caused by an event that could likely occur in the future, such as losing a soccer game. Rather than telling the child that they are destined to win it, which may not occur, it's best to assure them that regardless of whether they win or lose, they will be okay. Providing realistic expectations lets them know that no matter what they face, they can manage it, and you'll be there to support them.
Respect Their Feelings, But Don't Empower Them
Letting a child know that you hear their fears about something shows compassion and understanding, but does not mean you are encouraging or empowering the fears.
When a child expresses fear of going to the dentist, for example, be sure to let them know that you understand where they're coming from, but don't feed into their anxious thoughts. Instead, reinforce that they will be fine and that you are there to help them in any way you can.
Don't Reinforce the Child's Fears
Children can pick up on the slightest changes in tone of voice and body language, which can play into their anxiety. With this in mind, it is important to be mindful of what you say and do that could inadvertently reinforce their fears.
Even if you are worried for them, try to speak and behave confidently, so they remain confident themselves.
Encourage the Child to Work with their Anxiety
The unfortunate thing about anxiety is that it might never go away completely. This constant can make dealing with it regularly tiring, especially for a child.
Let your child know how much you admire them for tirelessly working to overcome it, which will encourage them to keep up the good work.
Try to Keep the Anticipatory Period Short
Sometimes, expecting an anxiety attack is worse than the attack itself. If you know your child will be exposed to something that makes them uncomfortable, such as going to the doctor, don't feed into their fears by bringing up the appointment well in advance.
Working to shorten the anticipatory period as much as possible can help mitigate their negative thoughts and feelings.
Help Your Child Build Confidence with Assistance from Marshall Pediatric Therapy
If managing your child's anxiety has you feeling overwhelmed, the experienced team at Marshall Pediatric Therapy is here to help. We're proud to provide families, teachers, and caregivers with the tools they need to combat childhood mental health concerns, including anxiety.
Contact us today to learn more about how you can assist your child in overcoming their fears, boosting their confidence, and overcoming their anxiety.