In my last blog I talked about anxiety in children and offered some tips to help your child deal with anxieties. I want to stress again how difficult it is to follow the steps. The thing you have to remember is these are tips offering long term solutions and life strategies, not immediate response tips. In the moment they are the hard things to do. What you want, and it’s the job of any parent, is an adult who can function in society in any situation they may face, be it social, job related or by chance.
To continue on the list I started last time, I am going to offer some more tips, but first let’s revisit some of the suggestions from last time:
- Reduce excessive stress
- Create a routine
- Give consequences
- Be supportive
- Encourage their independence
- Build their self-confidence
Set realistic expectations. It is important to have expectations, but remember that an anxious child may get frustrated if goals or expectations do not seem attainable. Break larger tasks into smaller steps and offer encouragement so your child feels a sense of accomplishment. Let them take steps forward, but let them do it at their own pace.
Control your reactions. Although it is important to be understanding and caring, do not overreact or let anxiety trick you into thinking that something is too hard or impossible for your child. Keep things in perspective. Yes, it might be challenging, but it can be done! On the other side of the pendulum, sometimes it is hard to understand our child’s anxiety or why something is so difficult for him or her. When we don’t acknowledge that our child is having a hard time with anxiety, the child may try to hide it (and suffer alone) or the symptoms may become more pronounced, (the pouting, arguing or misbehaving) in order to get the attention he or she needs.
Be Self-aware. It can be very difficult dealing with an anxious child. As important as it is to control your reactions for your child’s sake you also must manage your own reactions, for your own good. Do some things for yourself (enjoy a night out, read a book when the kids go to bed, go for a walk, or whatever helps you keep a positive perspective). Remember the basics: eat well, get enough sleep, and exercise! You can’t be helpful to your child if you don’t take care of yourself. You also need to be careful not to pass fears on to your children. Try to present a neutral reaction to situations and let you child know it’s safe to explore things.
Take Risks. This is true for everyone, but doubly important for an anxious child, so that they can build self-confidence and develop the necessary skills for dealing with people and their environment. Encourage your child to try new things such as ordering the pizza, or asking the store clerk a question. The other thing to remember is that children learn from example, so you can model brave behaviour by trying new things yourself.
Avoid Avoidance! Anxious children tend to want to avoid things that cause them anxiety. Even though avoiding things may reduce stress in the present, it allows fears to grow and makes things more difficult in the future. Avoid letting your child avoid things. Instead, encourage him or her to try things and take small steps towards facing fears!
Once again I do not offer this information as an exhaustive list, but as someone on a learning curve myself. Stay true to what you believe and know is right for the big picture, and not to simplify or ease the present situation.