If you are a parent of a child who suffers from anxiety, you are not alone. In truth, anxiety is a condition that impacts millions of people worldwide, both children and adults alike. While having the support of others in your shoes can be helpful, it does not necessarily help you respond to your child’s needs whenever their anxiety is holding them back.
For many parents, figuring out how to reduce child anxiety is a top concern. The thing is, anxiety is not usual, even for very young children. Rather, it is an integral part of humans’ survival instincts, and most people experience numerous fears while growing up. Undoubtedly, it is a part of learning. With that said, there are still several steps that you can take next time your son or daughter is in an anxious moment.
Manage the Anxiety
Instead of trying to eliminate your child’s anxiety instead, try to manage it. This approach is more realistic, plus it allows your son or daughter to practice useful lifelong anxiety coping tools like counting down or making action plans. Doing this can help him, or her learn how to tolerate feelings that people sometimes cannot completely prevent.
Do Not Avoid Anxiety
While it might be tempting, do not avoid situations that may cause your son or daughter anxiety because, in the long term, doing so can allow the anxiety to manifest. Furthermore, modelling and encouraging this approach to coping can teach your child that avoidance is the best way to deal with challenges. As such, it is better to help your child confront the situations that they fear and offer guidance so that they know you are there.
Express Positive but Realistic Emotions
Another way to support young people with anxiety is by helping them identify and express positive but realistic emotions. While it can be useful to limit negativity, it is also important to emphasize realism in some situations. Sometimes, things do not work out the way people want or expect, and your son or daughter is going to experience that. Help your child focus on the things that are in his or her control while allowing them to express both positive and negative feelings.
Validate and Redirect Feelings
Speaking of feelings, validating and redirecting them is another effective way to help your child in an anxious moment. While you should allow your child to talk about what is bothering him or her, validation does not mean that you necessarily agree with them. Rather, you can respect your child’s feelings without empowering them. Instead of saying, “Yes, you are right. This is very scary!” Try something like, “I understand why you are scared because it is scary, but we are going to get through this together. How should we start?”
Avoid Leading Questions
Finally, another equally important consideration is to avoid leading questions when you are trying to help. Although parents can easily ask leading questions while attempting to understand a situation, they often ask questions that suggest how their child should respond. Instead of guessing why your son or daughter is anxious, for example, ask an open-ended question like, “How do you feel about ________?”
Knowing how to effectively help your child when they are in an anxious moment can be challenging. On top of that, no two children are the same. With that said, there are steps you can take to help, and by gently trying multiple approaches and asking for your child’s feedback, you may be able to make a bigger difference than you even realize.