A while ago I started with a new series on emotional and behavioral disorders, mainly because my eldest daughter suffers from anxiety (as do I) and seeing that I am already doing research to help her I figured why not share my story with all of you.
As parents when our children are feeling down or struggling our first instinct is to jump in and try and help or try and fix the situation. This is our job as parents but on the other hand it may make our children feel that there is either something wrong with them that needs to be fixed or it will mean that we do not give them the tools to handle situations as we do everything for them. I am not saying stand on the sideline and watch them drown, but we as parents in today’s society must give our children the tools to learn because this modern way of parenting is not helping them help themselves.
Here are a couple of tips that I am trying with my anxious daughter in the hopes that a) I feel less anxious when she gets anxious; b) she can try and identify what is making her feel anxious and have the tools to try and help herself and c) she can know that feeling anxious is okay.
1. Like all emotions, anxiety will pass, the heightened level of awareness caused by anxiety cannot be maintained by our bodies for very long. If you can find a spot to sit, even if you curl up in a ball rocking backwards and forwards that is okay, just find peace with little distractions and just breathe until it passes.
2. Remind you child that whatever they are feeling is okay. You are on their team and are there for them no matter what, you have the same goals. Do not ever make your child feel that what they are feeling is silly and ridiculous it will only make them feel more anxious.
3. Instead of “doing something to try and FIX what is going on”, simply observe what is happening like an outsider. By identifying triggers, you can help your child cope with them, even if this sounds impossible just count to 20 and try. In the long run you are helping your child.
4. Routine, routine, routine. Anxious children thrive on predictability, if they know what to expect of everyday life it will make them feel less anxious. Yes sometime things will need to happen out of routine, but you can sort of prepare them for that to for example:
Your daily routine after school is to get home, change clothes, have lunch, relax, do homework, relax, have dinner, bath, family time and then bedtime. But tonight you cannot be home from dinner to late and they suddenly at the last minute have a sitter. Take a couple of minutes to explain to your anxious child why you can be home for this and then tell and show them that you have made a list of the routine for the sitter and have discussed it with them as well and that you are just a phone call away if they are feeling anxious. This will help your child so much.
4. Your child’s anxiety is not a reflection of your parenting. You cannot change it, have prevented it – its like saying if I knew something I could have prevented getting cancer. You do not have that kind of control. On the other hand, how you handle your child’s anxiety is a reflection on your parenting, focus on how you can help your child (and yourself) instead of overthinking everything else.
5. Laughter is no cure, but it helps. If you can distract you child by making them laugh – go ahead and give it a try. Laughter is the fastest way to make you both feel better.
6. Lists are like routines for an anxious person. Help your child to make a list of things that make them feel less anxious. Have them carry the list with them so in time of need they can read it. While you are at it, make one for yourself as well.
7. Coping with anxiety takes time and practice for you and your child. Don’t assume you are back at square one when you experience a setback.
8. You are doing the best you can. The fact that you are aware of your child anxiety and doing everything in your power to help them means that you are doing your best – and that is more than good enough.
**Note: I am not a medical professional, but just a parent looking to understand my child better and searching for better methods to help her.
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