Anxiety can be a horrible, life-impacting feeling for adults, let alone children or adolescents. When you find out that your child or teen is suffering from anxiety, it is only natural that you’ll want to help them overcome it however you can. The answers aren’t always clear, and there are some common pitfalls that only make the situation worse. Here are some points that I’ve put together to help you help your child or teen overcome their anxiety.
Work on helping your child or teen learn to tolerate/live with the anxiety; it’s not about getting rid of it
In truth, anxiety isn’t necessarily something we can get rid of completely. And that’s okay. Instead, the emphasis should be on helping your child or teen get to the point where the anxiety no longer has much of a hold on them. It’s about lessening the impact of anxiety on their lives so that it ultimately doesn’t bother them or negatively affect them. Emphasise this when talking to your child or teen about anxiety; telling them you can get rid of anxiety altogether is simply an unrealistic expectation that may only cause them to feel frustrated and hopeless as time goes on…
Don’t encourage them to avoid the source of anxiety
It sounds easier said than done, but encouraging your child or teen to avoid what’s causing their anxiety isn’t going to do them any favours in the long run. For your child to overcome irrational fear, they need to expose themselves to it. Encouraging them to avoid will only reinforce the hold that their anxiety has over them and can have quite debilitating effects. Where irrational fears are concerned, it’s best to help the child gradually expose themselves to the source which will help ‘normalise’ it, with the intent of gradually reducing the anxiety it causes to the point that it’s eventually negligible or non-existent.
Empathise with your child or teen; show them that many people go through anxiety at some point; remove the stigma
It’s important to help your child or teen understand that their anxiety is nothing to be ashamed about. Make sure they know that it’s quite common and that many people go through it. You may well have suffered it at times yourself; if this is the case, then it would be a great idea to talk with your child about an issue that caused you anxiety. Talk to them about how it made you feel, and what you did to overcome it (even the steps that didn’t work). By creating a feeling of empathy and understanding, you’ll help your child realise that anxiety is felt by many people and there’s nothing odd or different about suffering from it.
Encourage your child or teen to think things through when it comes to their anxiety
Try to encourage your child or teen to think critically and logically. Ask them to consider how likely it is that their fear will come through. Ask them to think of the worst possible outcome (and again, how likely is it?). Now that’s not to say that you should assure them that certain things won’t happen, but emphasise the low likelihood of such an occurrence. One example to cite here would be that of an airplane falling from the sky and landing on your house; sure, it ‘could’ happen, but it’s so unlikely that people simply don’t worry about it and get on with their daily lives.
Don’t reinforce their anxiety
It should go without saying, but don’t reinforce your child’s anxiety. An example of this would be telling them that they are right to be afraid to go to a social event because they might embarrass themselves in front of someone they fancy. It’s completely the wrong message to give a child or teen and will only serve to promote the anxiety rather than lessen its hold on them.
I hope this has helped give you a better idea as to how to assist your child with their anxiety. However, if you feel that you need outside help from a professional please feel free to DM here or contact me at XXX to discuss in detail.