HELP! My Child Has Anxiety, What Do I Do? 3 Tips to Support Your Child
3 Tips to Support Your Child
By Elizabeth Howland, Hypnotherapist, NLP practitioner, Strength & Conditioning Coach & Mum of 3.
SIDE NOTE- This blog is no substitute for a qualified individualised session with a Mental Health Care Professional
Most parents would move mountains to ease their child’s pain.
Parents of kids with anxiety would more likely move planets and stars to provide a calmer more relaxed experience for our children.
It hurts to watch our kids worry over situations that to us as parents don’t entirely add up.
Here’s the thing: To our child’s delicate and somewhat influential mind, these situations are genuinely threatening.
Even perceived threats can create a real nervous system response. We call this response anxiety; I know it well.
Management and living with anxiety or a child who is anxious is not fitted into a cookie cutter mould, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution for anxiety.
Google it and a plethora of great research-based techniques that can help manage it are available & many of which are simple to learn and will be provided.
My tips below are just subtle suggestions to support parents and kids beyond just surviving, to really finding meaning, purpose and happiness in their lives.
1. REMIND OUR KIDS WORRYING CAN BE GOOD => Remember, anxiety is tough enough without our kids believing that something is wrong with them. Many kids even develop anxiety about having anxiety. Teach your kids that worrying does, in fact, have a purpose. Worry is a protection mechanism. Worry rings an alarm in our system and helps us survive danger. Teach your kids that worry is perfectly normal, it can help protect us, and everyone experiences it from time to time. Sometimes our system sets off false alarms, but this type of worry (anxiety) can be put in check with some simple techniques.
2. TEACH OUR KIDS TO BE THOUGHT POLICE => Remember, worry is the minds way of protecting us from danger. To make sure we are really paying attention, the mind often exaggerates the object of the worry (e.g., mistaking a stick for a snake). They say the definition of mindfulness is the combination of awareness & curiosity. Encourage your children to be like a police officer or a detective, investigate the thought, and look for the positive contrast truth, because it is also there. When we experience anxiety we view life through a negative lens, if we encourage awareness and curiosity, we can find the positive truth.
3. AVOID AVOIDING EVERYTHING THAT CAUSES ANXIETY => Do your children want to avoid social events, schools, cafes, sporting fixtures, basically any situation that causes anxiety? As a parent, do you help them do so? Of course! This is natural. The flight part of the flight-fight-freeze response urges your children to escape the threatening situation. Unfortunately, in the long run, avoidance makes anxiety worse. In CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) there is a model called exposure therapy, which essentially, we ease an individual in towards the fear, not away. But in the famous words of Dr Seuss, we do this inch by inch “inch by inch it’s a sinch, and yard by yard it’s hard” for what you do a little you’ll eventually do a lot. So, provide a reward system for your child, give them bite sized portions of exposure to ‘said’ anxiety source. Over time, more exposure to the fear, done with support and dignity, the fear and our anxiety will disappear.
In summary, lean into the anxiety. Support your children through their feelings. Allow them the grace of worrying is ok. Teach them to find the positive solution and do not give in to the fear. Remember, moving planets takes a hero and you’re the hero in your children’s eyes.
Jamie is one of the Sunshine Coast's respected, leading strength and conditioning coaches, and a reputable results-based force in the field of psychotherapy and self-development.