12 Tips To Parent Your Anxious Child
Posted on 8th August 2020 at 14:45
By Julie Wales, Family & Special Needs Counsellor
I am a counsellor who helps parents and their children and young people to improve their mental health and reduce anxiety and stress.
Many of us are feeling so anxious in recent times during the Covid 19 pandemic. We are living in different times to what we are used to, and change often provokes anxiety.
I therefore thought I'd offer some tips to help your child or teenager who is struggling with anxiety, as it is one of the main issues I see in my work with children and young people especially...
1. Listen and validate your child’s feelings. Anxiety is a real emotion and not pleasant. Help them to recognise anxious feelings in their body and what triggers their anxiety, so they can tell when they become anxious and ask for help.
2. You could set aside ‘worry time’ when you both sit down to talk about their worries for about 10 to 20 minutes (but not at bedtime). Your child could write down all their worries and put in a worry monster or a worry box and discuss in a couple of days again with you and some worries which have gone, they can then dispose of the note. Or create a ‘worry book’.
3. Practice deep, slow belly breathing together. This is easy, self-soothing and calming for both of you.
4. Instead of trying to fix your child’s worry, ask them “How likely is (the thing you're afraid of) to happen?” or “What is the worst thing that could happen?”.
Think through how to sort out the situation if it does happen. This teaches them to challenge their anxious thoughts and be better able to cope when they need to without you around.
5. Prompt with open questions, such as “Tell me some things you can do to handle this situation” and help them to brainstorm, rather than giving solutions. They will feel empowered! Laminate some cards using positive coping statements for them.
6. Avoid letting them skip school, sleep with mum, or other ways of avoiding situations. This makes the anxiety grow and it won't get resolved by avoiding it.
7. Encourage your child’s attempts to be brave, no matter how small this seems to you. E.g.- “I’m so proud of you for sleeping in your own bed last night.” Create a 'self soothe box', containing items that relaxes your child.
8. Work with your child to outline small steps leading to a bigger goal. E.g.- If the child feels anxious at school, work with staff they trust and outline manageable lessons they feel able to attend, social time that the child feels they can manage. Stick to the plan until they are comfortable to proceed to attending more lessons and help them to set up their own ‘support team’ that they can go to whenever they feel anxious and need reassurance.
9. Create opportunities for your child to practice being brave and coping and praise their efforts.
10. Practice a visualisation and help your child to find a safe place in their mind - somewhere they feel relaxed and happy. E.g.- It may be a happy holiday place, grandparent’s house or somewhere they can picture in their mind whenever they have anxious thoughts.
11. Distract them by focusing on an activity they love, or use a free App on their mobile phone, such as Mindshift, Calm, Headspace or Chill Panda.
12. Recognise when you are anxious and say out loud what you can do to calm down and solve the situation. Always look at your options. You will be modelling coping strategies for your child, but be mindful: Do not overshare your anxiety!
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