Anxiety can take place in many forms for children whether it is social anxiety, separation anxiety, or general anxieties. When childhood anxiety is heightened, it’s natural for parents and caregivers to go into protection mode. The best thing for parents and caregivers to do is to help their children learn to manage anxiety.
Here’s 6 Ways to Help Your Child Learn to Manage Their Anxiety:
1. Set Clear Expectations.
It’s important to have similar expectations for anxious children that you have for non-anxious children but it can be helpful to go at a little slower pace and make some accommodations. While you’re one child may want to attend every birthday party, your anxious child may want to avoid big birthday parties. Setting clear expectations and helping your child create appropriate benchmarks like going to smaller birthday parties or birthday parties without big triggers like a bounce house or swimming pool. This will help create expectations and teach your child that she/he can work through anxious feelings and manage their anxiety with baby steps without completely missing out.
2. Let Your Child Worry.
Don’t just say to your child “Don’t Worry!” or “Relax!” This doesn’t help them stop to worry. Instead, provide a listening here and allow your child to vent to you and brainstorm solutions together.
3. Don’t Avoid the Anxiety.
Just like telling your child not to worry won’t make those anxious thoughts disappear, avoiding triggers of anxiety won’t help your child learn to cope. If your child becomes anxious around water for example, keeping your child completely away from pools, lakes, the ocean, the bath, etc will only validate the anxious thought. It sends the message that water in fact is danger. It’s better to help desensitize the triggers by taking small steps. Try looking at pictures of the ocean and talking about what triggers the feeling of anxiety. Next, go to a park with a pond and take a way around it. Finally, visit a pool or sit in the bath together with some toys to know that it’s okay. By taking small steps, kids can learn to work through their anxiety and find ways to cope.
4. Help Them Build a Way to Cope.
One thing that helps anxious kids is having a list of ways to cope to use in a moment of anxiety. Here’s some examples you can practice together:
- Deep breathing
- Stress ball
- Write it out
- Talking it out
- Counting to 10
5. Get Back to Basics.
Your anxious child doesn’t need to play every sport and attend every birthday party, but they do need the basic health and social needs like:
- Good sleep
- Healthy meals & plenty of water
- Downtime to decompress
- Outdoor free play
- Daily exercise (taking a walk, riding bikes, playing at the park, etc.)
6. Empathize Often.
Anxiety is tough for anyone, especially young kids. When kids feel overwhelmed by anxious thoughts, they can struggle to do everyday things like go to school or band practice. Anxiety in children can even cause them to avoid fun things like playdates with friends. It’s important to empathize and provide emotional support to your child. This normalizes what they are experiencing and helps them understand that they aren’t alone, and you will be there with them through it.
Reminder: Take Care of Yourself Too.
Parenting an anxious child can be emotionally draining and all-consuming. Between interrupted sleep and constant worries, child anxiety can take a toll on the parents and caregivers. Make sure to prioritize your own health needs so that you have the energy you need to help your child through this difficult time.
HOPE is Here.
As a reminder, you never have to suffer alone. There are resources available for you.
Georgia HOPE specializes in providing quality mental health services for children, adults, individuals and families in the state of Georgia. To learn more, enroll, or refer someone to us, contact us below:
- Call: 706-279-0405 Ext. 149
- Text: 706-847-4871
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Visit: GaHOPE.org
- Contact Us Online
- Enroll / Refer
Other Resources Available:
- National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
- Georgia Crisis & Access Line: 1-800-715-4225
- GMHCN Warm Line: 888-945-1414
- CARES: 844-326-5400, Call or Text 8:30AM-11:00PM for Substance Use Crisis Text Line: 741-741