How to Support Your Child with Anxiety
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How to Support Your Child with Anxiety
With the amount of information that gets put in front of humans these days, it’s no wonder we have seen a spike in anxiety around the world. Kids are no different; they have fears, worries, and anxiety, just like any grown adult might.
It can sometimes be difficult to pinpoint if your child is experiencing normal levels of anxiety or an anxiety disorder, and how to best approach it. While you should involve your doctor if needed, there are a few helpful things to know about childhood anxiety – what causes it, how to best support your child, and when to seek medical help.
Is Anxiety in Kids Real?
Just like in adults, anxiety is very real. However, it’s important to remember, that to a certain degree, anxiety is a normal part of being a human, and it can help protect us from dangerous situations. When your child is a toddler, you might see them get anxious around new people, which is a common occurrence at that age, and is usually grown out of.
As they continue to grow, their anxiety may change from animals and the ocean to death and getting lost, to school or tornadoes, and other things that you may have felt anxious about at one point as well. This is part of the brain’s learning process about what is safe and what is not.
Anxiety and Depression
Unfortunately, anxiety can also be very invasive and take up much more of your child’s life than it should. If your child is showing extreme distress regarding a particular activity or experience, it may be cause for concern. For instance, if your 6-year-old has a panic attack about a spelling bee, it might be time to consult a medical professional.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America separates childhood anxiety disorders into a few different buckets: generalized, separation, social, and specific phobias. If your child seems to be experiencing any combination of these behaviors, work with a doctor to best support them.
While no parent ever wants their child to feel unsupported, with anxiety it can feel like an impossible balancing act of being supportive while not exacerbating the situation. Even if just your body language shows apprehension in a certain situation because you’re worried about how your child will react, they may take that as a cue that they SHOULD be anxious, when that’s not the case.
It turns into a vicious cycle of chronic anxiety, and it can be very hard to get out of. Try to keep these simple tips in mind at home:
1. You don’t need to eliminate anxiety for your child; you need to help them work through it. It’s better to show them that they can still function and move through those feelings than it is to try and keep them from feeling anxiety at all. (Remember: it IS a normal part of life
2. Be realistic with their child. Sometimes their fears will come true. It’s less about convincing them their fears won’t happen, and more about convincing them that even when they do, you will get through it together.
3. Don’t amplify their anxiety. Instead of saying “are you feeling worried about riding in the car?” ask them “how do you feel about riding in the car?” This keeps their feelings their own and doesn’t automatically frame every conversation with an anxious tone.
4. Illustrate healthy ways to manage anxiety in your own life. Children are sponges and they notice everything. If they see that it’s normal even for you to be anxious sometimes, but then see that you don’t let it dictate your life and can move through it, they are likely to follow your lead.
It’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your child’s mental health. If things become unmanageable for you or your child, get professional help. Experts can help you with tips on how to operate at home, or have sessions with your child to work through specific anxieties.
Every child will have different coping mechanisms. You may notice that your child worries a lot more than others. This doesn’t mean you did anything wrong, it just means you may have to help them work through it a bit more intentionally, and if you’re reading this article, you’re already headed in the right direction.