Anxiety isn’t only for adults. And while you have your rent or mortgage, relationships, career, and child rearing to worry about, this doesn’t take away from the genuine anxiety today’s younger generations experience.
Kids in the 2010s have to worry about standardized testing, peer pressure, bullying, social media, and gun violence. Some less fortunate souls have to think about having enough food to eat, growing up with addicted or incarcerated parents, toxic home life, and all manners of abuse and neglect.
But even if yours is a warm, loving home, that doesn’t mean your kid is cool, calm and collected all the time. Many children with great home and social lives struggle with acute and chronic anxiety.
Some children have a worrisome mind that is continually over-analyzing or focusing on the negative. If left unchecked, these kids can grow into pessimistic and neurotic adults.
Other children are not born with anxiety but encounter life circumstances that force them to focus too much of their attention on what could go wrong, or what is wrong or perceived to be wrong with them.
It’s not a good idea to tell a child just to stop worrying or stop being anxious. It is just the way some are wired, and the threshold for becoming anxious and overwhelmed is lower.
It isn’t something that is easily changed, and you will make them more self-conscious by admonishing them for something that comes naturally. For others, social interactions spark their constant worry.
Bullying plays a significant role in encouraging anxiety, but perfectionism and having unreasonably high standards at home can also do the trick.
Parents who don’t show their kids enough appreciation, praise or love, or dish out harsh punishments for small errors can also be the catalyst for childhood anxiety.
So how do you help a child who is feeling overwhelmed by life? Here are four ways to support your super anxious child.
1Take your time
It may not feel like it in the moment, but anxiety does pass over time. You can help your child get to the other side by showing them they can sit and wait for the jitters and restlessness to dissipate on their own. It takes patience and practice, but if your child knows they can sit with their feelings, and they eventually will calm down, they can save themselves from an anxiety spiral.
This is when your child feels even more anxious about feeling anxious in the first place. And when they don’t give themselves enough time to recover, they can become worried about the anxiety not passing fast enough.
Teaching your little worrywart self-soothing techniques will do wonders for them and you. The better your kid can handle their anxiety themselves, the less you will have to handle it for them. Deep and meditative breathing helps lower your heart rate and stress levels.
Have them close their eyes and press their index, middle or ring fingers to their thumbs for even deeper relaxation. Tell them to focus on something peaceful or pleasant to take their mind off of what’s bothering them. Focus on multiple senses and sensations, like smell, sound, and sight.
Having a distracting conversation about something they enjoy or look forward to can also work to run out the clock on a panicky episode.
3Talk it out
Sometimes kids just need to voice their fears and have you listen. You can often work things out better when you say them out loud. So ask what is causing your child’s anxiety when they are experiencing it. Have them talk through the worry and be there to listen supportively.
Talk to an expert
If talking things through, attempting to self-soothe, and waiting for the feelings to pass are not alleviating the frequency or intensity of episodes, it may be time to enlist the help of a professional.
A child therapist, psychologist, or clinical social worker may use talk therapy, re-framing, or cognitive behavioral therapy to decrease the influence of anxiety in your child’s life. In extreme circumstances, a child psychiatrist may be included to prescribe medications that can mitigate more severe and disruptive symptoms.
Don’t underestimate or dismiss childhood anxiety. The feelings are real and just as insidious, limiting, and potentially damaging to your child’s life and self-worth as it is to an adult’s. But anxiety can be managed.
So begin toaddress the problem in the home, then in the worrying environment. If the episodes persist have a professional address the problem.