Is Your Child Dealing with Anxiety?
Childhood is an anxious process for young kids as they are growing up and learning how to deal with their environments around them for the first time. Young kids are tasked with new lessons, new challenges that they need to learn to adapt to, learn how to overcome fears and navigate in a world that’s so dynamic that it doesn’t always make sense. Plenty of situations can make kids feel scared and anxious. Sometimes these fears can be too much for them to handle and we as parents may not be able to tell the difference between being scared and being anxious to the extent that it needs professional help. Not treating anxiety leaves a child at risk of decreasing performance in school, poor social skills, and harmful behaviors like substance abuse.
Some degree of anxiety in youngsters is appropriate rather than alarming. Sometimes, a certain level of anxiety is also helpful for young kids as it helps them navigate difficult situations. Your child could be anxious for different reasons, be it experiencing a lot of change in a short amount of time, being around someone who is personally very anxious, struggling at school, feeling overwhelmed by work are some of the instances kids need help to get through these anxious times.
Anxiety can affect a person’s mind and body in different ways. So how do you spot if your kid’s dealing with anxiety? Anxiety comes in different ways with physical symptoms such as panic attacks, constantly being unwell, wobbly legs, feeling unable to breathe. Their thoughts and feelings may include having scary or negative thoughts, being nervous, being overwhelmed, panicky feeling and more. They may also behave differently, including turning to certain coping behaviours such as isolating themselves, repeating certain behaviours to try to avoid or manage their anxiety. When your child is having an anxious moment, they may get agitated and have a panic attack. The important thing to do as adults is help them calm down and make them feel safe in the environment that they are in.
How to Help Your Child Deal with Anxiety
1. Help your child manage it: The goal isn’t to try to get rid of anxiety but instead help your child learn how to manage it. Helping them learn to tolerate their anxiety and function as well as they can will help their anxiety decrease or fall away over time.
2. Don’t avoid things just because they make your child anxious: Helping children avoid things or situations that make them anxious will help them feel better in the short run, but it reinforces the anxiety over the long run. Let your child learn how to deal with that situation and learn a way to overcome it. Don’t let avoiding a thing or situation become a coping mechanism.
3. Express realistic expectations: Fears and difficult situations are bound to occur in everyone’s lives. It is therefore important to remind your child that no matter the situation, things are going to be okay, and they are going to be okay. Tough situations can be dealt with and managed, and as they face their fears, the anxiety levels will drop over time. This gives your child the confidence that your expectations are realistic and that you as a parent are not going to ask them to do something they can’t handle.
4. Respect your child’s feelings: Validation does not always mean agreement. Remember to respect your child’s feelings and not belittle their fears, no matter how small the fear is. Listen, be emphatic, help them understand what they are anxious about and encourage them to overcome and face their fears. Being there for your child in the moment is sometimes enough for them to know that there is someone to help them get through tough times.
5. Model healthy ways of handling anxiety: Being a role model in any situation is always a great way to teach your kids something. Help your kid handle anxiety by letting them witness how you yourself cope with anxiety. As a parent, it is difficult to pretend that there isn’t stress and one shouldn’t have to pretend either way. However, let your kids see you manage your stress and anxiety calmly and how you feel good about getting through difficult times.
6. Encourage your kid to do something that makes them feel calm: Engage your kids in activities that make them feel calm or happy. It could be anything from going for a walk to drawing, doing arts and crafts. Talk to your child and try to understand what things or activities make them feel calmer and try to incorporate that in their daily routine as much as possible.
7. Make a worry box: This is a tactic where you get your child to write down their fears and worries and put them or even lock them in a ‘worry box,’ giving them a physical space where their worries can be ‘held.’ This helps reduce your child’s fears to just a word on a piece of paper.
8. Spend quality time with your child: Talk to your kid and spend as much time with them to help keep their mind off their worries and anxieties. Have fun activities planned during the day that encourage family time together which can create a comfortable space for your child. Banyan Tree Kidz has a great collection of DIY kits for kids that have a fun range of arts and crafts activities that combine fun and learning. Make fun and learning a family affair with these kits for kids. This is a great way to focus your kids' minds on the moment.
While being there for your child and helping them to the best of your capacity is good enough, sometimes kids might need professional help. If you feel your child would do better with professional medical help, take them to a professional to help them feel better. It is important to know when anxiety is taking over your child because normal anxiety turns toxic when it begins to occupy the child’s thoughts in an all-consuming way and negatively affects the child’s ability to engage in normal activities and behaviors.
All in all, be there for your child, help them understand that every obstacle and fear can be overcome, and no matter the situation, you are always going to be a guiding hand to help them get through tough times.