What NOT to Do When Your Child is Anxious

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As a parent, you’ll do just about anything to prevent your child from feeling anxious or nervous. While this seems like a great quality of any parent, it could be hurting rather than helping. If you have a child with anxiety, make sure you aren’t adding more fuel to the fire by checking out these tips from TheOnlineReview.

Don’t Eliminate Anxiety

This first tip might sound a little crazy. Why wouldn’t you want to eliminate your child’s anxiety? No one wants to see their child struggle, but the best way to help them is to teach them to tolerate their anxiety rather than remove the stressors that trigger it. 

For example, if your child is anxious about their math test because they are having a hard time grasping the material, it is impossible to remove this stress. Math is here to stay. 

Teach your child how to cope and overcome anxiety by helping them come up with strategies. Can you help them to visualize the concept and demonstrate a deeper understanding? Do you need to help your child understand the concepts by searching the textbook and handouts, or do you need to help your child articulate the questions they need to ask the teacher? Then ask yourself whether you can help your child find those concepts explained on a YouTube video or at Khan Academy. Perhaps you could work through some extra problems with them at home, or set up a study group with classmates.

Many of the most successful entrepreneurs had anxieties and their moms were there to teach them how to overcome them. You are laying the foundation for your child’s future success, says Edutopia. By teaching them the process of how to search for answers, you are empowering them.

As your child grows up, it is inevitable that they will experience anxiety, whether it is about college applications, work, bills, or relationships. Much of this has to do with a lack of self-confidence. Teaching your child ways to cope and to turn self-criticism into confidence in their abilities helps them now and in the future, and can help pave the path to a successful life. 

Avoid Leading Questions

We’ve all been there before. You were completely prepared for your work presentation and then someone asked if you were nervous. All that hard work and mental prep came crashing down and anxiety set in. The same thing happens to your child when you draw attention to their fear and make it seem as if they should be anxious. Avoid loaded questions such as, “Are you nervous about the test?” or “Are you anxious about the big game?”

Rather than questions that lead to more anxiety, Lemon Lime Adventures suggests using powerful phrases to help your child calm down. Simply telling your child not to worry isn’t enough, because when anxiety rears its ugly head, all logic and reasoning go out the window. Encourage your child to talk it out with some of these statements:

·      “Tell me about it” – Give your child time to talk about their fears and worries freely without interruption. Give them a set amount of time to get everything out and then put the worry away.

·      “What do you want to tell your worry?” – Explain to your child that anxiety is like a worry bug that hangs around. Give them permission to talk back to the worry bug and tell him to go away.

·      “What do you need from me?” – Let your child tell you what they need. Perhaps they need a hug, advice, or help coming up with a solution. If what they need isn’t possible, give them their wish in fantasy form while also offering a solution. For example, “I wish grown ups could go to kindergarten too. How about you keep this charm in your pocket to keep me with you until I pick you up.”

Don’t Be Unrealistic

Be careful with the promises you make to your child. You can’t guarantee that she won’t ever fail a test, she’ll have fun at the slumber party, she’ll never experience peer pressure, or that other children won’t laugh when she is presenting a project. 

However, you can instill a sense of confidence that your child will get through it, face their fears, and their anxiety level will gradually drop over time. Setting realistic expectations also shows honesty. You never want to mislead your child, and being honest about potentially stressful situations shows that you understand but also know they can handle it. 

A great way to help your child build confidence in themselves is to help them come up with soothing techniques to use when anxiety crops up. This reinforces the fact that they can handle anxiety, no matter what situation it occurs in. When putting them to bed, include a soothing, weighted blanket that helps them feel secure and snug. Some of the benefits of a weighted blanket are helping children fight stress, improve sleep quality, boost mood, and calm them.

It’s okay to want to shelter your child from their anxiety, but in doing so in all situations, you cause them more harm than good. Rather than shielding them, recognize their anxiety and help them come up with ways to cope. Learning how to manage their anxiety now gives them the skills for success in the future.

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