I have read several theories that try to explain why there has been a rise in anxiety disorder cases among children. Irrespective of their explanations, we cannot ignore that child anxiety is on the rise and making it worse; in recent years there have been more young children (as young as 5 to 7 years) with clinical levels of anxiety that are reported.
Nurturing chronically anxious children can be quite a delicate balancing act that causes the most careful and well-meaning parent to stagger. This results from their efforts to trying to protect and save their children from the unending onslaught of fear, and worries, and most parents are not left with a choice but to soothe. Luckily, with effective anxiety management strategies in place, you can always avoid falling into negative cycles.
KWise psychology have prepared the best working tips for parenting children with chronic anxiety;
1. Don’t Avoid The Details That Trigger Your Child’s Anxiety.
Ignoring or avoiding the things that trigger anxiety to your child may only be useful when you are looking for short term solutions for your child’s anxiety. While some of these can be useful here and there, but when your child is genuinely overwhelmed. When you do it more often making it a habit, you will end up authenticating and reinforcing the anxiety for your child. As a parent or a guardian, it is very important not to entertain attitudes of helplessness expressed by your child, and training the level of avoidance will do just that.
2. Mind The Message That Your Body May Be Sending.
For instance, if your child has had a bad experience with a situation or with something, it is not very clever that you as a parent to give an anxiety reaction the next time when your child is around; this will lead to your child responding negatively.
If you show the tension or anxiety signs in your body language, then you are affirming to your child that indeed there is something to fear. instead, take a deep breath; in and out, and give a relaxed attitude instead.
3. Validate Anxious Feelings But Don’t Affirm Them.
One of the largest mistakes that you can do to your anxious child is to reassure your child by dismissing their feelings by either calling them stupid, or making dismissal comments such as, “there is no single reason to be afraid of that” or “what is there to be afraid of?”. Instead try to be compassionate to your child by validating their feelings but not affirming to them (for instance you can respond to their feelings by saying, “its normal to be worried about that” or “when I was at your age I was scared of that too”).
Focus on listening, emphasizing, and assisting your child to understand the heights of anxiety, then come up with plausible ways to cope with the situation. give assurance to your child that you are there with him or her in helping out the situation, leaving them alone will only increase desperation and vulnerability and the issue may take longer or escalate to clinical levels.
4. Keep In Mind That Anxiety Cannot Be Eliminated, But It Can Be Managed.
I have concluded that moods and feelings of anxiety are more like the weather, it will be rainy or sunny in some days and cloudy or even calm in others, but you as a parent cannot change this. Similarly, stop placing unrealistic expectations to yourself upon when your child is gloomy by taking full responsibility. This will only increase your anxiety as a parent and transfer the same to your child.
Always have in mind that you are not in a position to protect your child from all the factors that trigger his or her anxiety. The best thing you can do is install tools for your child that will help him or her manage the anxiety healthily and functionally. In the process of learning how to use these tools, your child gains control and begin to naturally become less anxious.
5. Positively Affirm Your Child’s Efforts To Manage Anxiety.
Children look up to their parents or guardians. Similarly, they rely strongly on the encouragement and support from you as a parent. By showing your child that you fully appreciate the efforts they are making towards fighting fear and managing anxiety, you are giving them extra morale to help them keep tackling stressors. The more the child wins over his or her stressors, the more confident they become, and the weaker the fear and anxiety get.
6. Be Optimistic, But Be A Realist At The Same Time.
Dispute unrealistic reassurances in your mind of what ‘cannot’ happen to your child while it happens to other children (such as ‘all children will like him or her’ or ‘she will not fail the test’). Focus more on balance optimism; ‘every experience is a life lesson’, ‘how will he know if he does not try?’, ‘you will always have his back when he fails the test’, etc. the more realistic you are when handling your child, the less the pressure your child will put on themselves.
7. Reduce The Anticipation Periods.
Maybe you have faced fear before, and you are well aware that one of the most difficult parts of it is that period leading up to it. Both adults and children imagine the fear to be worse than it is, right before it hits. It is therefore advisable to reduce this period to your child whenever possible. This can be done by distracting them with something pleasant or a topic that they like. Avoid as much as possible discussing the situations hours before it actually happens.
8. Teach By Example.
As I stated earlier, children tend to emulate the parents or guardians, meaning your behavior has a significant impact difference to your child. By learning how to manage anxiety and stress healthily in your own life, you are capable of effectively modeling these tips to your child.
Show your children it is okay to get anxious at times, and you do get anxious as we all do, and that you have found ways to manage, work with it and you always come out more positive and empowered.