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.