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How To Help a Child Struggling with Anxiety

how to help a child with anxiety

Is your child struggling with anxiety? This article will give you warning signs to look for, coping strategies, and more.

 

As parents, we worry about how our actions affect our kids. We never want our children to feel anxious.

If it were up to us, our kids would never feel any negative emotions at all. Insulating your child from harmful emotions isn’t the answer, however.

This article will give you some simple tips to help your child manage their anxiety in healthy ways.

Understand what anxiety is

The first step in helping your child cope with anxiety is to understand what anxiety is.

Anxiety itself is not “good” or “bad,” but simply our response to a perceived threat. This fight-or-flight response evolved to keep us safe from predators and other dangers.

Things that are not physically harmful to us, but are unknown, can trigger this response. Anxiety, then, is a protective mechanism to keep us safe.

If we try to shield our children from any perceived threats (as some parents try to do), we would be damaging our children by taking away their ability to cope with the real world.

The solution is to understand and manage anxiety, not eliminate it completely.

Look for physical signs of anxiety

While some children may not want to talk about their feelings, anxiety often manifests itself physically in many ways. If your child is more irritable or tired than normal, it may be a sign of anxiety.

Other children complain of stomach aches or nausea. As they get closer to whatever is causing them to feel anxious, they may get clammy hands, experience an increase in their heart rate, and may cry.

Be mindful of what you say to anxious children

Adults often forget how impressionable children are. Their brains are still developing, and their critical reasoning skills are very new. Some of the things parents say off the cuff can be very damaging to children.

Children, for example, don’t understand sarcasm until they reach their teen years. A simple remark you find funny or amusing may land in the wrong place in a child’s mind.

When a child is emotional, things said at the moment, such as “it’s no big deal,” can have harmful repercussions to a child.

Remember to avoid leading questions. If you ask a child, “Are you worried about the test tomorrow?” you may be accidentally planting the idea of worry into their mind.

If you suspect your child is worried about something, ask an open-ended question such as “How do you feel about the test tomorrow?”

Talk to your child about their anxiety

When a child is in distress, it’s the wrong time to try to tell them how to handle their anxiety. Wait for a calmer time and approach your child. Have a simple discussion with them.

Ask them to describe times they feel nervous or anxious. Outside of unusual or extreme circumstances (such as getting lost in a store or the first day of attending school), there will likely be repeated times, places, or situations that trigger their stress.

Ask your child to describe those situations and feelings. Explain what anxiety is and why we have it. As you talk, you may discover ways to change the nature of the circumstances for your child.

Explore anxiety reduction aids for kids

Many products help reduce anxiety. Some items are suited for different physical needs or preferences. These items are another method for how to help a child with anxiety.

Some items, such as a weighted blanket, give anxiety relief through physical comfort. Other items, such as scent inhalers, appeal to the sense of smell.

Try different products – or even fidget toys – based on what physical stimuli comforts your child.

Another method to reduce anxiety is an emotional support dog. Animals bring a great deal of comfort to their owners, and if your family already has a dog, you may be able to get it certified as an ESA.

To do this, you will need an ESA letter. The initial assessment can be done quickly online. Part of the process involves consulting with a therapist.

After meeting with your therapist, the approval process is usually less than 24 hours.

Find activities that calm your anxious child

Humans are very adaptable creatures. If your child is feeling anxious, there are probably activities they do that help calm them down. They may not even realize they are doing these things to reduce their anxiety.

At some point, their mind simply found a given activity helped them feel better, and they started doing that activity whenever they felt anxious.

Have a discussion with your child. Ask them what kinds of things they do that help them feel better. If they can’t think of or name specific activities, try several activities known to have calming effects on people, such as drawing or painting.

Summing Up

We want what’s best for our kids. Protecting them from the bumps and bruises of the world is natural, but it’s not safe (or possible) to shield your child from all unpleasant feelings. Help your child understand what they are feeling and why. Explore coping mechanisms together.

If one method doesn’t work, Move on to another. Look at anxiety as a natural thing for your child and help them find the right tools so they can move forward.

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