Anxiety is a condition that affects nearly 20 percent of all children, and if left unmanaged, the consequences can be dire. Studies have shown that children who never successfully manage their anxiety miss out on opportunities, are at a higher risk of underperforming in school and are more likely to engage in substance abuse. As a parent your number one priority is the wellbeing of your child, so it is important that you offer them ways to cope with and manage their anxiety as soon as possible. Here are a few tips you can begin using today.
Be their support system
Battling with anxiety is an isolating process, especially for a child. There will be times where their fear will seem to debilitate them, but you mustn’t allow them to give in to it. Although avoiding anxiety-provoking situations will provide them short term relief, they will not learn how to tolerate anxiety and get through it in order to function normally.
Do not remove the stressors that trigger anxiety, instead show them how to manage even while they are feeling anxious. The more they face their fears, the more likely their anxiety surrounding the situation will decrease. Even though you can’t guarantee that your child’s fears are unrealistic, always let them know that you have confidence in them and that they will be able to manage and get through any situation just fine.
Never add to your child’s anxiety by forcing your opinion on them or punishing them for their mistakes. Pay attention to their feelings and encourage them to talk about what is causing them to feel anxious. Things like academic stress, peer pressure and drastic changes like moving can all cause quite a bit of anxiety in children and teenagers.
Never ask leading questions like “Are you anxious about going to school?” Instead ask open-ended questions that don’t feed into the cycle of anxiety such as, “How do you feel about going to school?” Avoid amplifying their fears by listening and being empathetic. Help your child to understand what they are anxious about, and then do your best to encourage them to feel that they can face their fears. Acknowledge that they are afraid, but let them know they are not alone and you are there to help them get through it.
Keep in mind that your child notices they way you handle situations that produce anxiety as well. Lead by example and face any stressful situations in a calm manner and display your good feelings for getting over it! When your child overcomes any fears be sure to acknowledge and praise their accomplishments to build self esteem and the confidence the need to continue to break through barriers.
Use relaxation techniques
Teach your child a relaxation technique or two to help them manage their anxiety effectively. When your child feels anxious, their breathing will change to short, shallow breaths or they may even hyperventilate. Techniques like deep breathing is an effective way of slowing the body’s response to stress and calming your child down. Teach them to slowly breathe in for 4 seconds, then hold the air in their belly for 2 seconds. After they blow the air out, take a few seconds before breathing in again. Have them repeat this for 5 to 10 cycles, twice a day. Once they are comfortable with this technique, they can use it on their own to deal with anxiety-inducing situations.
As a parent of a child dealing with anxiety, it is important that you don’t beat yourself up over their condition. Anxiety is not a result of poor parenting, it is just means that your child needs a little more patience and love to get through certain things. As long as you continue to offer support and guidance your child can go on to live a happy and social life!
Author: Noah Smith