Feeling a little anxious in some situations is a normal emotional response but, when anxiety becomes excessive, it can have a significant impact on your day-to-day life and your emotional well-being. Sadly, anxiety is an extremely common condition, with more than 40 million adults in the U.S. experiencing some form of anxiety.
However, anxiety isn’t an issue that only affects adults. Over 7% of children aged 3-17 in the U.S. have been diagnosed with anxiety and this number is increasing all the time. With more than 4 million children currently dealing with diagnosed anxiety issues, a significant number of parents, caregivers, teachers, physicians, and therapists are intervening to help young people overcome excessive anxiety.
If your child is experiencing anxiety, you’ll want to do everything you can to help them. However, it’s not always easy to know how to assist in their recovery. To help you get started, take a look at these top tips for helping an anxious child.
Help Your Child Understand Anxiety
If you’ve ever experienced anxiety yourself, you’ll know just how scary it can be. As well as feeling fear or worry, intense anxiety can cause physical symptoms, such as dizziness, fast heart rate, and/or nausea. Typically, adults are able to understand the link between anxiety and their physical symptoms, but children may not be aware of the connection.
By explaining how anxiety and the ‘flight or fight response’ to your child, you can help to learn more about how their body reacts to the emotion. In many cases, simply knowing that anxiety is at the root of these uncomfortable symptoms can help to diminish them.
Understand Your Child’s Concerns
To an adult, a child’s worries may seem silly or irrational, but this doesn’t make them any less real. Encouraging your child to talk about their anxiety can help you to understand more about where their fears are stemming from. Additionally, you can use these conversations as a chance to educate your child more about anxiety.
Talking about your child’s worries and coming up with an ‘action plan’ to help manage them is a great first step. If your child confides that they are worried about going to sleep at night, for example, you can gently ask them what worries them most about it and what they think would help. This encourages them to explore their feelings and to think of effective ways to minimize their fears.
Knowing what triggers particularly high levels of anxiety can help your family to provide the reassurance your child needs. Furthermore, when you know which situations provoke an extreme reaction, you can develop appropriate management strategies.
Many children are anxious about going to the dentist, for example. Taking your child for regular dental check-ups can help to get them used to the experience and relieve their anxiety. In addition to this, using sedation dentistry can help to ensure your child’s dental health is well-maintained, without putting them through undue stress. Similarly, visiting a dentist who has experience of treating anxious children can be beneficial.
Avoid Exacerbating Anxiety
No parent wants to exacerbate their child’s anxiety but it’s easy to do so without realizing it. Instead of asking if your child is anxious about an upcoming situation, for example, ask how they’re feeling about it instead. Similarly, if you’re anxious about something or worried about how your child will react to a situation, don’t let this affect your tone of voice or body language. Children are adept at picking up on these things and may take it as a subconscious signal that there is something to worry about.
Show Kids How to Manage Anxiety
Talking negatively about anxiety or stress can send a message that it’s an awful feeling or something which cannot be overcome. However, by showing your kids how you manage anxious feelings, it reinforces the belief that, while anxiety is normal, it’s also easy to find healthy ways to manage it. This empowers your kids and gives them the tools they need to help them manage their own anxieties.
Helping Your Child Overcome Anxiety
Although there are plenty of ways to help your child manage anxiety at home or school, additional help is also available. Visiting your child’s pediatrician can help you obtain advice and support, for example. For some kids, seeing a therapist can help them to deal with their anxiety in a constructive way. Similarly, family therapy can help you to discover anxiety reduction techniques that you can help your child to implement in a variety of situations.