How To Help A Child With Anxiety: 9 Easy Parenting Tips

Things Parent with Anxious Child Should Try

Children with anxiety may face trouble and as they become older, their anxiety might worsen. If left untreated, anxiety can affect children’s physical and mental health. Here’s how to help a child with anxiety on his or her own.

How to deal with an anxious child? How can parents reassure their children with anxiety? We’ve all got it covered.

As all the kids line up to go to school, your son, Timmy, turns to you and says, “I don’t want to take the bus. My stomach hurts. Please don’t make me go.” You cringe and think, Here we go again. What should be a simple morning routine explodes into a daunting challenge.

How To Help A Child With Anxiety?

You look at Timmy and see genuine terror. You want to comfort him. You want to ease the excessive worry that’s become part and parcel of his everyday life. First, you try logic. “Timmy, we walk an extra four blocks to catch this bus because this driver has an accident-free driving record!” He doesn’t budge.

Related: Effects of Growing Up as an Unloved Child and How To Heal

You provide reassurance. “I promise you’ll be OK. Timmy, look at me… you trust me, right?” Timmy nods. A few seconds later he whispers, “Please don’t make me go.”

How To Help A Child With Anxiety
Anxious Kids Anxious Parents: How To Help A Child With Anxiety

You resort to anger: “Timothy Christopher, you will get on this bus RIGHT NOW, or there will be serious consequences. No iPad for one week!” He looks at you as if you’re making him walk the plank. He climbs onto the bus, defeated. You feel terrible.

If any of this sounds familiar, know you are not alone. Most parents would move mountains to ease their child’s pain. Parents of kids with anxiety would move planets and stars as well. It hurts to watch your child worry over situations that, frankly, don’t seem that scary.

Here’s the thing: To your child’s mind, these situations are genuinely threatening. And even perceived threats can create a real nervous system response. We call this response anxiety and I know it well.

Related: This Is How Emotional Neglect Affects A Child

I’d spent the better part of my childhood covering up a persistent, overwhelming feeling of worry until, finally, in my early twenties, I decided to seek out a solution. What I’ve learned over the last two decades is that many people suffer from debilitating worry.

In fact, 40 million American adults, as well as 1 in 8 children, suffer from anxiety. Many kids miss school, social activities, and a good night’s rest just from the worried thoughts in their head. Many parents suffer from frustration and a feeling of helplessness when they witness their anxious child in this state day in, day out.

What I also learned is that while there is no one-size-fits-all solution for anxiety, there are a plethora of great research-based techniques that can help manage it — many of which are simple to learn. WAIT! Why didn’t my parents know about this? Why didn’t I know about it? Why don’t they teach these skills in school?

I wish I could go back in time and teach the younger version of myself how to cope, but of course, that’s not possible.

How To Help A Child With Anxiety And What Role Do Parents Have In Raising Anxious Kids

What is possible is to try to reach as many kids and parents as possible with these coping skills. What is possible is to teach kids how to go beyond just surviving to really finding meaning, purpose and happiness in their lives. To this end, I created an anxiety relief program for kids called GoZen!

Here are 9 ideas straight from that program that parents of an anxious child can try right away.

9 Tips On How To Help A Child With Anxiety

1. Stop Reassuring Your Child

Your child worries. You know there is nothing to worry about, so you say, “Trust me. There’s nothing to worry about.” Done and done, right? We all wish it were that simple. Why does your reassurance fall on deaf ears? It’s actually not the ears causing the issue. Your anxious child desperately wants to listen to you, but the brain won’t let it happen.

Watch this video to know how to improve the parent-child relationship:

How To Parent An Anxious Child

During periods of anxiety, there is a rapid dump of chemicals and mental transitions executed in your body for survival. One by-product is that the prefrontal cortex — or more logical part of the brain — gets put on hold while the more automated emotional brain takes over.

In other words, it is really hard for your child to think clearly, use logic or even remember how to complete basic tasks. What should you do instead of trying to rationalize the worry away? Try something I call the FEEL method:

Freeze — pause and take some deep breaths with your child. Deep breathing can help reverse the nervous system response.
Empathize — anxiety is scary. Your child wants to know that you get it.
Evaluate — once your child is calm, it’s time to figure out possible solutions.
Let Go – Let go of your guilt; you are an amazing parent giving your child the tools to manage their worry.

2. Highlight Why Worrying is Good

Remember, anxiety is tough enough without a child believing that Something is wrong with me. Many kids even develop anxiety about having anxiety. Teach your kids that worrying does, in fact, have a purpose.

When our ancestors were hunting and gathering food there was danger in the environment, and being worried helped them avoid attacks from the saber-toothed cat lurking in the bush. In modern times, we don’t have a need to run from predators, but we are left with an evolutionary imprint that protects us: worry.

Worry is a protection mechanism. Worry rings an alarm in our system and helps us survive danger. Teach your kids that worry is perfectly normal, it can help protect us, and everyone experiences it from time to time. Sometimes our system sets off false alarms, but this type of worry (anxiety) can be put in check with some simple techniques.

Related: 49 Phrases To Calm an Anxious Child

3. Bring Your anxious Child’s Worry to Life

As you probably know, ignoring anxiety doesn’t help. But bringing worry to life and talking about it like a real person can. Create a worry character for your child. In GoZen we created Widdle the Worrier. Widdle personifies anxiety.

Widdle lives in the old brain that is responsible for protecting us when we’re in danger. Of course, sometimes Widdle gets a little out of control and when that happens, we have to talk some sense into Widdle. You can use this same idea with a stuffed animal or even role-playing at home.

Personifying worry or creating a character has multiple benefits. It can help demystify this scary physical response children experience when they worry. It can reactivate the logical brain, and it’s a tool your children can use on their own at any time.

4. Teach Your Child to Be a Thought Detective

Remember, worry is the brain’s way of protecting us from danger. To make sure we’re really paying attention, the mind often exaggerates the object of the worry (e.g., mistaking a stick for a snake).

You may have heard that teaching your children to think more positively could calm their worries. But the best remedy for distorted thinking is not positive thinking; it’s accurate thinking. Try a method we call the 3Cs:

Catch your thoughts: Imagine every thought you have floats above your head in a bubble (like what you see in comic strips). Now, catch one of the worried thoughts like “No one at school likes me.”

Collect evidence: Next, collect evidence to support or negate this thought. Teach your anxious child not to make judgments about what to worry about based only on feelings.

Feelings are not facts. (Supporting evidence: “I had a hard time finding someone to sit with at lunch yesterday.” Negating evidence: “Sherry and I do homework together–she’s a friend of mine.”)

Challenge your thoughts: The best (and most entertaining) way to do this is to teach your children to have a debate within themselves.

5. Allow Them to Worry

As you know, telling your children not to worry won’t prevent them from doing so. If your children could simply shove their feelings away, they would. But allowing your children to worry openly, in limited doses, can be helpful.

Create a daily ritual called “Worry Time” that lasts 10 to 15 minutes. During this ritual encourage your children to release all their worries in writing. You can make the activity fun by decorating a worry box.

During worry time there are no rules on what constitutes a valid worry — anything goes. When the time is up, close the box and say good-bye to the worries for the day.

How To Help A Child With Anxiety: 9 Parenting Tips For Raising Anxious Child

 Related: 7 Things You Need To Teach Your Children About Love And Life

6. Help Them Go from What If to What Is

You may not know this, but humans are capable of time travel. In fact, mentally we spend a lot of time in the future. For someone experiencing anxiety, this type of mental time travel can exacerbate the worry. A typical time traveler asks what-if questions: “What if I can’t open my locker and I miss a class?” “What if Suzy doesn’t talk to me today?”

Research shows that coming back to the present can help alleviate this tendency. One effective method of doing this is to practice mindfulness exercises. Mindfulness brings a child from what if to what is. To do this, help your child simply focus on their breath for a few minutes.

7. Avoid Avoiding Everything that Causes Anxiety

Do your children want to avoid social events, dogs, school, planes or basically any situation that causes anxiety? As a parent, do you help them do so? Of course! This is natural.

The flight part of the flight-fight-freeze response urges your children to escape the threatening situation. Unfortunately, in the long run, avoidance makes anxiety worse.

How To Help A Child With Anxiety: 9 Tips For Parenting Anxious Children

So what’s the alternative to calm your anxious child? Try a method we call laddering. Kids who are able to manage their worry break it down into manageable chunks. Laddering uses this chunking concept and gradual exposure to reach a goal.

Related: 10 Surprisingly Effective Natural Remedies for Anxiety

Let’s say your child is afraid of sitting on the swings in the park. Instead of avoiding this activity, create mini-goals to get closer to the bigger goal (e.g., go to the edge of the park, then walk into the park, go to the swings, and, finally, get on a swing).

You can use each step until the exposure becomes too easy; that’s when you know it’s time to move to the next rung on the ladder.

8. Help Them Work Through a Checklist

What do trained pilots do when they face an emergency? They don’t wing it (no pun intended!); they refer to their emergency checklists. Even with years of training, every pilot works through a checklist because, when in danger, sometimes it’s hard to think clearly.

How To Help Kids With Anxiety?

When kids face anxiety they feel the same way. Why not create a checklist so they have a step-by-step method to calm down? What do you want them to do when they first feel anxiety coming on? If breathing helps them, then the first step is to pause and breathe.

Next, they can evaluate the situation. In the end, you can create a hard copy checklist for your child to refer to when they feel anxious.

9. Practice Self-Compassion

Watching your child suffer from anxiety can be painful, frustrating, and confusing. There is not one parent that hasn’t wondered at one time or another if they are the cause of their child’s anxiety.

How To Help A Child With Anxiety: 9 Tips For Children With Anxiety

Here’s the thing, research shows that anxiety is often the result of multiple factors (i.e., genes, brain physiology, temperament, environmental factors, past traumatic events, etc.). Please keep in mind, you did not cause your child’s anxiety, but you can help them overcome it.

Related: How To Practice Mindful Self Compassion: 6 Life Changing Steps

Toward the goal of a healthier life for the whole family, practice self-compassion. Remember, you’re not alone, and you’re not to blame. It’s time to let go of debilitating self-criticism and forgive yourself. Love yourself. You are your child’s champion.

Are you also a parent with an anxious child? What do you do to deal with an anxious child? Leave a comment below.


Originally published on Go Zen

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What support does the high school has to provide kids with severe anxiety?

Some high schools provide meditation periods that can help in healing an anxious mind. Teachers also create a safe place for students to talk about their issues.

How do I get over my anxiety and depression stemming from being a high achieving child?

Most people don’t ask for help and spend their lives in pain. However, prescribed medication, psychotherapy, and lifestyle changes can effectively address anxiety, depression, and their underlying causes.

How can you help a child with anxiety?

To help kids with anxiety, teach them that it’s okay to worry and how to go beyond just surviving. Children need to find meaning, purpose and happiness in their lives.

9 Things Every Parent with an Anxious Child Should Try
How To Help A Child With Anxiety: 9 Parenting Tips For Raising Anxious Child
Things Every Parent with an Anxious Child Should Try pin
Parenting Anxious Children: 9 Tips On Raising Anxious Child
Things Parent with Anxious Child Should Try pin
Parent with Anxious Child Should Try
Ads

— About the Author —

Responses

  1. Kris Yamashita Avatar
    Kris Yamashita

    Tomo Yamashita

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



Up Next

Bad Husband But Good Father? 8 Tips On How To Be A Better Dad And Husband 

Practical Tips on How to Be a Better Dad and Husband

Being married to a man who is a bad husband but a good father is a complex and challenging experience. It’s a situation where the joys and struggles of parenting coexist with the frustrations and disappointments of a strained marital relationship. So how to be a better dad and husband?

Today, we will try to gain a better understanding of the psyche of a bad husband but a good father and shed light on how you can encourage them to be both a better husband and father. Let’s dive in.

Who Exactly is a Bad Husband and Good Father?

A bad husband can be someone who falls short in their role as a partner. T



Up Next

The Emotionally Absent Mother: Overcoming Her Legacy And Healing From The Wounds

The Emotionally Absent Mother: Healing From The Wounds

Having an emotionally absent mother can take a heavy toll on your mental and emotional well-being, and that too from a very young age. This article is going to explore what it means to have an emotionally unavailable mother, how her emotional absence can affect you and how to heal from it and move on.

Growing up with a mother who wasn’t emotionally available may have complicated your relationship with your emotions. Our early experiences of emotional attunement play an important part in the subsequent regulation of our emotions.

An emotionally absent mother may fail to develop the kind of satisfying attachment bonds in her children that make sustaining ordinary relationships possible.



Up Next

Only Child Syndrome: A Closer Look At The World Of An Only Child

Only Child Syndrome: Exploring An Only Child's World

What is the only child syndrome and how does an only child feel growing up without siblings? This article is going to talk about how it feels being an only child, and what it entails. So, let’s get started, shall we?

There is a stereotype that only children, children without siblings, fail to develop the ordinary social bonds and attachments that children with siblings do. The reality is more nuanced.

It does not follow that children with siblings are automatically more adaptable, more able to share, more able to understand group dynamics, but it is the case that only children didn’t grow up having to deal with



Up Next

Child Parentification: The Cause, Signs, and Recovery

Clear Signs Of Child Parentification In Adults

Ever felt like you were the parent instead of the child? That might be child parentification. Let’s explore its causes, signs, and how to recover together.

The term child parentification was coined in 1967 by family systems theorist Salvador Minuchin, who said the phenomenon occurred when parents de facto delegated parenting roles to children.

It can happen when one parent is physically absent or when a dysfunctional family is under stress because a parent cannot perform their parental responsibilities.

Usually, this is due to a phy



Up Next

6 Signs You’re Ready To Start A Family

Signs You’re Ready To Start A Family With Your Partner

You want a baby, a little one to call your own, yet you’re not sure if you really are ready to start a family? Being a parent isn’t as easy as it seems. You can’t just wish for a child then boom, they’re born.

Before even starting the process of family planning, you need to first figure out whether or not this is truly something that you want.

While for some couples around the world, having a baby is their ultimate dream. That’s not always the case for everyone else.

Some can’t decide if they actually do want kids or not while others are already excited and some are straight up terrified. It’s also no secret that life changes forever when there’s a little one in tow. The question �



Up Next

Why Introvert Extrovert Couples Make Great Parents: 8 Compelling Reasons

Reasons Introvert Extrovert Couples Make Great Parents

You know why introvert extrovert couples make great parents? They’re the perfect combination of yin and yang. Introvert extrovert couples work really well because where one person lacks, the other makes up in spades. And this approach reflects in their parenting skills as well. They have different ways of looking at things, and they give the best of both worlds to their children.

In this article, we are going to explore some of the major reasons why introvert extrovert couples make a powerful team when it comes to the battle of parenting their children.

So, if you are someone who is in an introvert and extrov



Up Next

Zodiac Signs As Moms: Discover Your Celestial Parenting Style Here

Zodiac Signs As Moms: Powerful Parenting Styles Unveiled

Do you find motherhood as exhilarating as it is demanding? The zodiac signs as moms bring unique parenting styles to the mix!

Motherhood is a unique path where the 12 zodiac moms bring different cosmic energy. Our personality is shaped by stars and the 12 zodiac signs are therefore associated with certain motherhood traits that differ from one another.

Thus, fasten your seatbelts, and let’s venture on a whimsical journey through the world of astrology to find out who these celestial zodiac moms truly are.

Zodiac Signs As Moms