- Remember! Their anxiety is very real.
Many parents think their child just wants attention or is making things up. It is important to remember that anxiety is very real for the child, even if his/her fears seems silly to us. The fact that your child expresses his/her fear be it through actions or words shows us that he/she places his/her trust in us. We must respect that trust and address it in all seriousness.
2. Find the balance between understanding and limits.
In many cases it is important to not give in to the child’s anxiety and change things around the house. Laying down firm boundaries gives the child a sense of security. It is important to stick to those boundaries or limits. For example, insisting that your child go to school even when he/she objects to attending may be very difficult, yet necessary. That being said it is not necessary to force the child to do non-essential activities since this may exacerbate his/her anxiety even more. Finding the delicate balance that lies between understanding and limits is one the greatest challenges parents face.
3. Be sensitive to your child’s fears.
Children pick up very easily when we are troubled, sad or suffering from anxiety of our own. In order to convey a sense of security we have to be calm ourselves. Use relaxation techniques and share your concerns with other adults. This will help you to be more available to your children. If necessary seek professional help. There is a direct relationship between parents’ anxiety and their children’s’ anxieties/fears. The more effectively you cope with your anxiety, the better your child will be able to cope with his/her own.
4. Listen to your child.
Children tend to be less verbal than adults, so it is necessary to be more attuned to the messages that they are conveying through play, games, and drawings. Adults can offer hugs, go on outings, read books together and share in other activities, all to show how much they care and are trying to listen. Adolescents will often prefer to talk with their peers rather than with their parents. We must remember that this is not a bad thing in and of itself. Support from friends is a wonderful source of strength for all of us, adults and children, when coping with anxiety.
5. Teach your child relaxation techniques.
Children respond well to relaxation techniques and guided imagery. Besides the physical benefits and the calm these exercises relay, you can use this time to practice the exercises together. Sharing an activity like this together can be both very relaxing and enjoyable.
6. Turn the anxiety into excitement.
Many things that cause anxiety can also create excitement and anticipation. For example, if your child is apprehensive about going from kindergarten into first grade, you can try and turn it into something exciting to look forward to. Go shopping together for school supplies, and work together with the child on school preparation workbooks. In another example, anxiety often crops up before a move so you can try to discuss how your child will set up and decorate their new room, and try to shift the focus to the more enjoyable parts of the move.
7. Be aware of signs of distress.
If you feel your child is excessively anxious, more so than you can handle or that he/she is having difficulty in his/her day to day functioning turn to professional help. In adolescents anxiety can lead to dangerous forms of behavior or to substance abuse. Be well aware of this possibility and seek help if necessary.