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What to Do (and Not Do) When Children Are Anxious
Adopted from an article published by Clark Goldstein, PhD
Parents naturally want to protect their child from having to deal with anxiety. Here are pointers for helping your child to deal with this. Please remember that the most important thing is that you remind your child just how much you love him/her.
1. The goal isn’t to eliminate anxiety, but to help a child manage it.
None of us wants to see a child unhappy, but the best way to help kids overcome anxiety isn’t to try to remove stressors that trigger it.
2. Don’t avoid things just because they make a child anxious.
Helping children avoid the things they are afraid of will make them feel better in the short term, but it reinforces the anxiety over the long run.
3.Express positive—but realistic—expectations.
You can’t promise a child that his fears are unrealistic— but you can express confidence that he’s going to be okay.
4. Respect feelings, but don’t empower them.
You want to listen and be empathetic, help your child understand what she’s anxious about, and encourage her to feel that she can face her fears. The message you want to send is, “I know you’re scared, and that’s okay, and I’m here, and I’m going to help you get through this.”
5. Don’t ask leading questions.
Encourage your child to talk about his feelings, but try not to ask leading questions.
6. Don’t reinforce the child’s fears.
What you don’t want to do is avoid saying, with your tone of voice or body language that there is something to be anxious about.
7. Encourage the child to tolerate her anxiety.
Let your child know that you appreciate the work it takes to tolerate anxiety in order to do what he wants or needs to do.
8. Try to keep the anticipatory period short.
When we’re afraid of something, the hardest time is really before we do it. So another rule of thumb for parents is to really try to eliminate or reduce the anticipatory period.
9. Think things through with the child.
Sometimes it helps to talk through what would happen if a child’s fear came true—how would she handle it? For some kids, having a plan can reduce the uncertainty in a healthy, effective way.
10. Try to model healthy ways of handling anxiety.
There are multiple ways you can help kids handle anxiety by letting them see how you cope with anxiety yourself.
Some books to consider when helping your child with anxiety
by Andi Green and Andi Green;Andi Green
Help Your Dragon Deal With Anxiety: Train Your Dragon To Overcome Anxiety. A Cute Children Story To Teach Kids How To Deal With Anxiety, Worry And Fear. (My Dragon Books)
by Steve Herman
by Adir Levy
by Gail Silver and Franziska Hollbacher
by Natalia Maguire and Anastasia Zababashkina
by Dawn Huebner