In this article, we’ll be looking at some of the parenting strategies that would help your kids against anxiety.
What does it mean to be anxious?
It means to be worried, or have fears. Fear, meaning a strong emotion caused by actual or perceived danger. Anxiousness can be characterized by extreme uneasiness of mind, usually about some uncertain events. The thing here is, fear can cause one to be anxious and anxiety can also cause fear.
It is good to help your child out of anxiety, but overprotecting can make it worst.for most kids leaving them to suffer it is actually bad because anxiety in children is one the mental health challenges of our time.
“One in five children will experience some level of anxiety when they reach adolescence,” says Danny Pine, top anxiety researcher, and psychiatrist at the National Institute of Mental health.
Danny is one of the prominent top anxiety researchers. He adds that for most kids, these feelings of worry won’t last, but for some, they will.
If you don’t help your kids out of anxiety, it would grow worst and affect them psychologically. When anxiety becomes a psychological problem, it becomes tough to tackle.
Having explained anxiety (what it means to be anxious), and stating that it has a negative effect on the mental health of children in the long run.
I believe no one wants to see his or her child unhappy or harboring fear, so I’ll be giving out some parenting tips on how to help cope and escape the cycle of anxiety.
- Don’t try to eliminate anxiety; help the child to manage it
One of my favorite success quotes says “Success doesn’t just happen; you have to set it in motion.” Anxiety cannot be eradicated immediately, just like magic, but it can be improved upon with proper steps towards management, daily.
The goal here should not be trying to remove what actually triggers the anxiety but to help them to bear/tolerate their anxiety even when they are anxious. When you do this, it will make them more mature to handle things even if you’re not available, causing a reduction in their anxiety (level).
- Don’t avoid things just because they make a child anxious
In a bid to reduce your child’s anxiety, do not avoid things just because they make your child a little less anxious. By this act, a child may feel relieved for a while, but this tends to reinforce anxiety.
For example, if you have a scary mask, help your child understand its purpose – a mask is used to scare people. You might as well let him hold onto it, to feel. Don’t just keep it away from his reach.
Similarly, for children with a phobia of mathematics, you have to help them understand that in failing, they get more knowledge because they are able to realize the error and correct it. Do not just paste the right answer at them, or shove them aside. The latter would hurt more, but neither would help their future.
Something to note: Try to make your child understand why certain actions are being taken, and help him see the benefit in it. Don’t just avoid things that make him anxious.
- Express Positive-but realistic-expectations
Be careful with your promises. Don’t ever promise a child that her fears would never materialize, just like telling her, “You can never fail this exam!” Or that people won’t mock him when he performs below expectations during a football match.
Instead, as a parent coach, you have to express a positive reaction and confidence that all will be well. Be a good motivator and you’ll see your child overcoming anxiety.
When you do this, he will believe you more than telling him “failing the test is impossible.”
- Get back to basics
When your child is anxious, you don’t have to stress him with things like attending parties, playing sports. All he needs is to focus and do things needed for his mental health such as;
- Drinking plenty of water
- Healthy meals
- Daily exercise
- Respect their feelings, but don’t empower them
Inside every child is panic, and how you handle a situation with your child (or ward) would determine if you understand and respect her feelings. It also makes a claim that you know leaving her to act as she likes, empowers her.
For example, if she is terrified about going to see a doctor for one reason or the other. All you have to do is encourage her, not amplify or belittle her fears. She is human too, and we all have moments in our life where we need an extra push or words of encouragement.
Anytime you see a panicking child, always help to relax. And when you see your kids passing through such trauma, be the encouragement they need. The reality still remains that you can’t achieve anything with them if you don’t help them feel better (by relaxing).
- Don’t ask Leading questions
To help a child struggling with anxiety, avoid leading questions. These are questions that require answers that the questioner desires.
Examples of leading questions are…
Where are you?
Were you in Florida last week?
Are you anxious about the upcoming professional exams?
Are you still worried about the break-up?
When you keep on asking such leading questions, you tend to feed the child with more anxiety. Instead of asking such leading questions, make use of open-ended questions. This helps you hear directly how they are feeling, instead of imposing one on them subconsciously.
“How are you feeling about the upcoming professional exams?”
- Don’t reinforce the child’s fear.
What you want is to eliminate fear, not reinforce it. Therefore, you should not reinforce it using body language or tone of voice.
(This is more like the point made in 6, if you do not mind, combine both)
If your daughter frets at the sight of dogs or has had a bad experience with dogs (and hasn’t gotten over the incidence), you should mind the kind of statements you want to make around her.
Using soft and encouraging words might be all that she needs to analyze, understand and overcome. You’d be stunned by her reaction next time she’s around a dog.
Also, you don’t want to confirm her fears by painting it as one. Remember to involve what I told you in point 3 – be positive, but realistic. Do away with sentences that do not follow this pattern. Here’s one: “Maybe this is something that you should be afraid of.”
- Encourage the child to tolerate her anxiety
One of the best counseling tips is to make your client feel better before starting the real counseling. Attacking (or blaming) your child will, and can make her anxiety turn to depression. When you encourage your child, always make her feel special (because she is special) and let her know that you appreciate all that she does.
Make her know that anxiety always takes its natural curves (or cause.). This would create in her an enabling mental environment for tolerating her anxiety. I bet you’ll begin to notice a change in her.
ALSO, READ Tips to Get Your Kids to Love the Dentist
- Try to keep the anticipatory period short
The rule of thumb here is to reduce or eliminate the anticipatory period. If your child is sick and asked to undergo an operation. Yes!! Your child might be so anxious about going there, it is very good to keep the anticipatory period short. If you launch into the discussion quickly, it may generate more fears, you can postpone the discussion, let’s say for 2hrs don’t try to allow it to get to days.
- Think things through with the child.
What if the fear comes again?
What if you’re not there?
What if. . .how would she handle it?
In the process of helping your child manage her anxieties, as my first point emphasizes, there are many possibilities you can look out for and try to proffer solutions to.
Take your time to think things through with her; walking her through the steps already explained and helping her build her confidence. You are building a strong and resilient child.
When you develop a plan, it can reduce the certainty of anxiety in a healthy and effective way. Your child can develop fear always, but with a well-thought-out plan resisting becomes easier, even when you are not there.
- Show them a better way of handling anxiety (when you experience one)
Remember what I said in point 7 – about reinforcing anxiety with your body language? It sheds more light to the fact that your body language is important.
Kids have this strong power of perception and adoption; that is why they can easily learn from your non-verbal cues. Hence, you must be careful what you do or say in their presence.
How you handle anxiety can affect how your kids handle anxiety. If you are the type who is usually unstable; you grumble, or you’re always seen complaining on the phone about your inability to handle stress. It won’t give them a strong sense of desire to overcome anxiety even when you carry out all the necessary “tactics.”
Conversely, when your kids see you managing anxiety calmly or feeling good getting over it, they would copy and adopt what you did to handle it, even when you are far from them.
They may even tell their friends things like: “My dad’s a great man!” “I love how my mum still helps me out even when she had a bad day.” “My parents seem to have a way of handling anxiety, and I love it cos it works like magic.”
- Build them into coping kids
Coping kids are strong kids. I believe the best gift you can give to a child with a tendency for anxiety is a set of coping skills.
There are several coping skills to teach your kids whenever they are anxious. You can write it on a “post-it” paper and give it to them paste it anywhere they want (that it would be visible) so they can do it whenever they feel threatened by their fears. Some of these actionable coping skills are:
- Identify and Write it out
- Take deep breaths
- Reframe your thoughts
- Relax your muscles gradually
- Get help from an adult.