My child has anxiety, now what?
Are you discovering that your child has lots of anxious feelings? Are they often worried and fearful? If you think your child is suffering from anxiety, then you are probably wondering “Now what?” “Is there a cure for anxiety?”
I remember being lost about how to help my daughter. I didn’t understand why she struggled to get along with siblings and friends. Why did she refuse to join in our family activities? Is there a cure?
Anxiety is a normal part of everyone’s life. Our bodies react with anxious feelings when a fearful or stressful situation happens. Ideally these feelings go away when the situation is over. So the first step is to think about your child’s anxiety and figure out how much if affects their life.
Kids get anxious for many reasons. When they are young it is normal for them to have separation anxiety- a fear of being apart from their parents. This will usually go away as they develop and outgrow it. Some other common causes of anxiety in kids are: bugs, darkness, shots, seeing blood, tests in school and severe weather.
When kids are anxious, they don’t have the words to explain how they feel, so their actions speak for them! That’s why kids may become irritable, angry, defensive and defiant. They may also show a lack of confidence, be unable to sleep well and avoid situations.
It’s normal for parents to try to change their kids behaviors without understanding the underlying emotion. You tell your child to stop being so crabby, but you don’t get at what is causing the irritability. If anxiety is the cause, you’ll need to help them with that.
Is There A Cure For Anxiety?
Not a cure, but a way to learn to manage and cope with anxious feelings. Because there are many different types of anxiety, such as social anxiety, separation anxiety and general anxiety, it’s a good idea to really figure out what causes anxiety for your child. Your child may just have anxious feelings around certain situations and not have an anxiety disorder.
Your child can outgrow some of their anxious feelings. This is a normal part of child development. You can help them by affirming their feelings and helping them to feel safe. Talk often about feelings, good feelings and bad feelings. Listen and affirm their feelings. Try not to dismiss them, or convince them “everything will be fine.” Remind them that you are there for them. You will keep them safe.
Frequently talkiong about feelings builds your child’s awareness of the affect feelings have on their emotions and behavior. For example: If your child is afraid of going to the doctor and getting shots. Ask them what it feels like to be afraid. Tell them about a time you felt that way. Help them to think of things that might make the anxious feelings go away. Don’t say, “Oh, don’t worry, it will be fine.” This comment dismisses their feelings and will cause them to avoid telling you about their worries in the future.
Many people outgrow their childhood anxious feelings or learn to manage them.
Parents can help their kids manage their anxious feelings. First, help your child understand anxiety, describe when it happens and how it makes them feel. Sometimes kids give their anxious feelings a name. This makes it easier to discuss it and makes it seem more controllable.
Another important step for managing anxiety is to find ways to combat the feelings. Breathing exercises, Brain Break activities, meditation, essential oil and exercise are a few examples. Parents and kids can experiment to find out what tool works best for managing their feelings.
Since anxiety happens often in response to situations, a way to manage it is to avoid those situations. Unfortunately, this isn’t always possible. So it is best to be prepared. If you know an anxiety producing situation is coming up, talk with your child about it. Ask them how they feel. Remind them of the tools they’ve used to combat their feelings. Help them make a plan.
Managing anxiety doesn’t make it go away. But it empowers your child to get through the feelings and behaviors that are caused by anxiety. It gives them better control of their life.
If your child’s anxiety is severe and persistent, then you need to see their pediatrician. Uncontrolled anxiety can affect self-esteem and confidence leading to many other problems. Anxiety that consistently impacts daily life may need to be treated with therapy and medication. Treating mental health is just as important as treating a broken arm, an infection, or disease.
Anxiety is very complex. And while it can’t be cured, it can be successfully managed. Parents are key to healthy control of anxious feelings and anxiety. You may want to take inventory of your own anxiousness. Your child is watching how you handle stress and fear. They are very in-tune to your feelings. Your being anxious may even cause your child to feel anxious.
As with many things, early intervention is key. Teaching your child techniques for controlling their feelings, behaviors and thoughts when they’re young, empowers them to handle stress and fear throughout their life.
“I Want To Cure My Child’s Anxiety”
By Lisa Reichelt, M.Ed., Parent Coach