6 Tips for Parenting a Child Struggling With Anxiety
While it is normal for children to get anxious about particular objects or scenarios, it can be alarming if they tend to worry about everything. Children struggling with unaddressed anxiety often lead to severe mental health conditions once they reach adolescence. As parents, we must teach our kids to efficiently manage their anxiety so they can become fully-functioning individuals. Here are six tips to help you parent your child suffering from anxiety.
Acknowledge their feelings
No matter how trivial their worries may seem, never dismiss your child’s feelings. When your little one expresses fear about something, it is essential you validate them and respond appropriately. Use non-judgemental responses that will make your child feel respected and heard. Personify your little one’s fears but avoid empowering or reinforcing their anxious feelings. Empathize with your child and encourage them to think that they are more than capable of facing their fears.
Teach your child relaxation techniques
Aside from teaching your child how to recognize their anxieties, you must also equip them with different relaxation and mindful strategies. Some proven techniques that can help include deep breathing exercises, yoga, meditation, exercise, coloring, drawing, and guided imagery. Educate your kid on the importance of relaxing their minds and bodies. Make sure you utilize educational resources and consider joining online parent support groups.
Address negative thoughts
Even at a young age, children are already prone to negative thinking. Constant negative thinking can significantly affect your child’s self-confidence and make them question their self-worth. Teach them how to identify their negative thoughts and turn them into positive ones. Ask your child to list their daily worries and statements they frequently tell themselves. Encourage them to assess and challenge their negative thoughts. For instance, if they often say, “I can’t talk in public since I am not smart enough,” try responses like, “When was the last time you had a low score in your exams?” or “Do you really feel that you’re not smart?” By teaching your child how to change their perspective, they will be able to engage in healthier self-talk, resulting in more positive and constructive thinking.
Adjust your parenting style
Children raised by overbearing and controlling parents often grow up with feelings of insecurity. Some are constantly burdened with the pressure to perform their best and succeed in every endeavor. For your child to overcome their anxieties, it is imperative that you are mindful of your parenting style and how you interact with your little one. Avoid placing unnecessary pressure on your child, and never expect perfection.
Remember that being authoritarian will only trigger your child’s anxiety and paralyze them with fear. However, it is also crucial that you don’t become a permissive parent. Children with permissive parents tend to have behavioral issues and are more prone to health problems as adults since their poor choices and habits were never rectified.
Model healthy coping strategies
Your child not only looks up to you for support but also tends to imitate your behavior and actions. Exert effort to become a role model for your little one. Demonstrate how you manage your emotions during stressful times by verbalizing how you’re dealing with an unpleasant situation. For instance, if you’re anxious about a work task, express your worries and corresponding action plan. Never pretend that you don’t experience negative emotions or hide your fears from your child. They will be more confident in facing their fears if you show them how you address your own. Ensure that the other adults in your household are also conscious of their negative behaviors and actively support you in managing your child’s anxiety disorder.
Seek professional help
Some children are able to overcome their fears once they transition to adulthood. However, those who grow up with undiagnosed and unresolved anxiety disorders often struggle as adults. Consult with your child’s doctor if you see anxiety symptoms such as trouble breathing, feeling sweaty or dizzy, headaches, fatigue, difficulty sleeping, and stomachaches. Aside from physical signs, you should also be wary of any issues in school and other institutions your child attends. Your kid’s pediatrician will be able to refer you to a licensed child psychiatrist or mental health caseworker for proper treatment. The earlier you seek professional help, the higher your child's chances of recovering quickly.
Helping your child handle their anxiety can be emotionally overwhelming. Remember to follow these strategies and don’t be afraid to ask for help.