#1 Teach your child about anxiety
Anxiety is an alarm system in the body that is supposed to go off when there is danger.
Unfortunately, sometimes our bodies send off false alarms when we are going about everyday life, leaving us feeling anxious, stressed, and worried at a time when worry is not helpful.
When experiencing anxiety about an event that may be far away or hasn’t happened, it is time to use a strategy. Anxiety felt in the body is also called somatization.
#2 Teach your child what happens in their body when anxiety and worry are present
When you experience anxiety, your body activates your stress response system.
Anxiety and strong emotions may cause the following symptoms: dilating of pupils, cold hands, sweaty hands, tightening chest, heart beating fast, and blood rushing into your muscles. Your muscles can become tense, and it may be hard to relax.
When you are anxious, your mind may focus exclusively on one thing, making it hard to pay attention to anything else.
When stressed, your digestion system may shut down, leaving you with a stomach ache, a sinking feeling in your tummy, or nausea. You get a burst of adrenaline and cortisol which can leave you feeling jittery and on edge to the point of exhaustion.
#3 Let your child know their body doesn’t know the difference between perceived danger and real danger
Teach your child that their body can not distinguish between perceived and real danger. When your child starts to worry about a difficult situation, their body will respond as if that situation is happening now.
Pause, take a moment, and ask, am I in danger right now? Can I use a strategy to calm down? Learn some great techniques you can use with your child in our Children and Anxiety course.
#4 Consider the best case, worst case, and most likely outcome
When we become worried, our minds often think of the worst possible scenario.
Teach your child to pause and ask, ‘what is the worst thing that could happen?” Then ask, “what is the most likely outcome?”
Then, focus on what is most likely to happen.
#5 Help your child know about adult worries and kid worries
Often, kids will pick up on our strong emotions. Will my parents get a divorce? What if I have to attend a new school? Grandma is sick. What can we do to help her? Our dog is sick. What will we do? First, acknowledge your child’s feelings. They are valid; it is normal for young people to feel scared and worried when experiencing hard times.
Help your child to understand it is not their job to fix adult concerns. For example, if you and your partner are struggling, it is not your kid’s job to improve your relationship or change the family dynamics. Let your child know that the adults are working together to develop the best solution.
If your child is worried about their grades, that is a worry they can solve. Help your child make a plan for improving their grades. When young people can find solutions to problems they can solve, it builds resilience.
#6 Avoiding what we are worried about only makes anxiety worse
First, it is essential to ensure your child is safe. If your child is safe, with warmth and safety, do not let your child avoid the stressor. Avoiding an activity only increases distress.
Let us say, for example, your young child misses you after a school break and doesn’t want to leave you; they share they have a stomach ache and refuse to go. When you give in and say okay, you can stay home today. Your child’s anxiety will decrease the next time they have to face that same fear; their anxiety will increase, making it harder for them to face it. It is called the cycle of avoidance.
Instead, it is helpful to make a plan, bring your child to school and help them cope with their fear.
Are you wondering how to help your child with common childhood fears such as starting a new school, fear of shots, fear of the dark, or talking with new people? Check out our Cadey course on anxiety. You will learn tips to help your child today.
#7 Help your child relax
Telling your child not to worry will probably not work. Just like with us, if we have a worry and call a friend and say I am so worried about my job, I don’t know what to do, and our friend replies, just don’t worry about it.
We will most likely not find that advice helpful. Instead, help your child learn how to relax their body with positive affirmations and mindfulness techniques when they are worried.
Check out our course if you are looking for specific relaxation strategies that can help when your child is anxious.
#8 Help your child notice their thoughts
We can have faulty ways of thinking that can increase the level of anxiety we experience. Teach your child to recognize negative self-talk and replace it with healthier thoughts.
In psychology, we call it ‘cognitive distortions’ when a person uses faulty logic that leads to distressing thoughts and emotions. Would you like to learn more about working with your child to improve their thought patterns? Try our Cadey course on anxiety.
#9 Read calming and happy stories before bed
Bedtime can be a source of anxiety for many kids from fear of monsters, being away from you, and the dark. It can help to read soothing, uplifting stories before bed to help put your child’s mind in a positive place. If you are wondering how to help your child with a fear of the dark check out our course.
#10 Model healthy coping skills around anxiety yourself
Kids watch what we say and what we do. Share your kid-appropriate fears with your child, and how you healthily faced the fear. Modeling positive self-talk and healthy coping can go a long way in helping your child reduce their anxiety.
The wonderful thing about anxiety is that we can do so many things to help ourselves and our children. In my eleven years working with kids and their parents, I have seen kids improve almost overnight when parents teach their children healthy tools for coping with anxiety.
Anxiety is one of the most common childhood mental health concerns, and it is treatable. Check out our course today from a child psychologist who gives you hands-on tools that you would receive during a therapy session. You can have help now.