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According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, roughly 1 out of every 8 children suffers from an anxiety disorder. Based on the same research, children with anxiety disorders may be at a higher risk of poor school performance, or of having normal social lives. Later on, the risks are also higher that they might use illicit substances.


However, this is far from a sure thing. Plenty of children with an early anxiety disorder live healthy and happy lives. You, as a parent, can help your child work through their anxiety and learn to function with it, until it isn’t nearly as much of a problem in their life. Here are some tips on how to help a child with anxiety…


Always remain calm


For parents, it can be frustrated to have your child be anxious in so many situations, especially when it comes to social situations. However, it’s important that you shouldn’t be the thing that adds to their anxiety, but helps them work through it. Because of this, always make sure that you remain calm in situations when they might be panicking.


You should be the anchor that reminds them that it is okay, and that they can work through their emotions with you. When you lose your calm, then their mental anchor is gone, and their anxiety can skyrocket.


Use family therapy


Counseling can be an especially useful tool to help kids work through their anxiety and lessen the impact it has on them. Plenty of counselors specialize in anxiety and other mental disorders in children. One particular tool that many counselors use is family therapy, where the session takes place with the child and their family members, together. This post has some helpful guidance for what to expect from family therapy, which can sound intimidating to many people.


Don’t make the mistake of assuming that you shouldn’t participate in family therapy because you don’t have any need of it, yourself. Family therapy is a great setting to help a child talk about things that they might be nervous about talking about in their normal day-to-day lives.


Give them praise when it is due


Positive emotions help children deal with underlying anxiety. It is especially good for them to feel pride when they have done something well. Be sure to give your child praise, when it is due. This doesn’t mean dishonestly congratulate them for everything they do, as that is setting them up for horrible expectations in life, but offer praise for each step that they take towards mitigating how anxiety affects them. This encourages them to examine their emotions and get a good read on how anxiety is impacting their life, as well as change that impact.


Understand what will trigger them


Your child’s anxiety may be triggered by different things. If they have social anxiety, then social events are definitely going to be a trigger. Specific phobias, such as the fear of dogs or heights, are also common triggers for anxiety disorders, depending on the child. Make sure you understand what it is that triggers your child’s anxiety, but don’t focus on avoiding those triggers.


If you steer your child away from everything that might give them anxiety, then you are teaching poor life habits that encourage them to run from their problems, instead of address them. Instead, focus on guiding them through these encounters with anxiety triggers, and teach them how to process their emotions, wisely, in those situations.


Assure them that nothing is wrong with them


When a child is diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, they are definitely going to feel an impact to their self-worth. The common thought that children have in this situation is that something is wrong with them. It’s natural for them to think this way, but it can also be very destructive. Talk with them about what an anxiety disorder is, and help them understand that it is something that naturally happens to some people, but that it is just a challenge that is going to make them stronger people and better for it.

There’s always been a stigma surrounding mental health. In the past, if anyone admitted to their inner demons and said that they struggled with anything concerning their mental health, they were looked down upon. Thankfully, talking about mental disorders is less taboo now, and when someone admits that they struggle, they are often welcomed with open arms, because more and more people are admitting to their own struggles. This is just showing that more people struggle with things like depression and anxiety than we had previously realized. While the normalization of mental disorders is a good thing, it’s also unintentionally affected the meaning of the words anxiety and depression. These two disorders have become romanticized; some individuals think it’s noble to suffer from these disorders, and will claim to have them for the attention. Others are using these words interchangeably with other words when really what they mean is that they’re nervous, sad, upset, or stressed.stress


External stresses


There’s quite a big difference between having anxiety and being stressed. Anyone can feel anxious for a moment, or even for a while about a certain thing or event, but it doesn’t mean that they you have anxiety. Feeling upset or stressed about something for a while doesn’t mean you’re having a panic attack.


Stress comes from external forces. You’re stressed about your job, money, family situations, friendships, romantic relationships, and so forth. When things becoming strained or difficult in your life, you can easily become stressed.


However, stress goes away. Your issues will always get resolved one way or another. When the things that you’re stressed about go away, so do your feelings of being stressed.


If you’re still feeling stress once the subject of your stress has truly been resolved, what you’re feeling may be anxiety. For example, you’re upset about something in the relationship you have with your spouse. You’re nervous to talk to them about the thing that’s upsetting them, so you spend all day fretting about what you’ll say and the correct way to tell them how you’re feeling. At the end of the day, you sit down with them and share your concerns, and the issue becomes resolved. The stress of the situation is now gone, and therefore, you’ll no longer be feeling stressed.


Anxiety is when, after having this conversation with your spouse, you continue to worry about it, chronically, for days. In your spare moments you’ll be wondering if you should’ve said something different, you’ll worry that they’re mad at you despite them being understanding and kind about the situation, and you’ll begin to tell yourself that you shouldn’t have been upset in the first place. Anxiety may cause you to obsess over simple things that aren’t, or shouldn’t be, a big deal.


Often, stress is mislabeled as anxiety. A lot of people don’t like going to the dentist. Leading up to a dentist visit, many people will feel anxious and nervous. Unless the anxious feelings of going to the dentist linger much longer after your visit, this is simply stress, rather than anxiety.


A lot of people mistake these issues as just stress, or just anxiety. Knowing what the cause of your feelings is can help you know how to handle them. For example, some people use alcohol or other substances to help them “de-stress” when they’re feeling overwhelmed. However, alcohol can be easily abused, and in situations where an alcohol dependency or addiction develops, it’s often caused by anxiety, rather than stress.stress


Internal Forces


Anxiety is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, often meaning that the neurotransmitters in the brain aren’t functioning the way they’re supposed to. The neurotransmitters that are targeted in an anxiety disorder are gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), serotonin, dopamine, and epinephrine.


GABA inhibits nerve transmission in the brain, which calms nervous activity. Serotonin affects your mood, social behavior, appetite, digestion, sleep, and sexual desire. Dopamine is one of the neurotransmitters that sends signals to your muscles to tell them to move. It’s also often considered the “feel good” chemical. Epinephrine helps regulate your breathing, stimulate your heart, and raise your blood pressure if it’s dropped.


An imbalance of any of these neurotransmitters can mean trouble. If there is a chemical imbalance, your body won’t be functioning properly, and therefore won’t react the way it’s supposed to. These imbalances can cause you to obsess over things you normally wouldn’t, make you feel useless and upset, lazy and lethargic, and even cause your heart rate to spike for no apparent reason.


What’s important to remember about anxiety is that, although it can be affected by or triggered by outside forces, what causes it is a chemical imbalance. If you have anxiety that’s affecting your daily life, seek out professional help to get a handle on it.stress

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