Is your child afraid or anxious?
Parenting children who are anxious often makes the parent anxious too. Parents can help their anxious child develop the skills and confidence to overcome fears so that they don’t evolve into phobic reactions. The following techniques may be used by parents to assist the child in coping with his or her anxious behavior.
Symptoms of anxiousness include:
- constant thoughts and intense fears about the safety
- fears about school and other places
- frequent stomachaches and other physical complaints
- extreme worries about everyday tasks
- being overly cautious
- panic or tantrums
- sweating, fidgety, unable to physically relax
- trouble sleeping or nightmares
- fears of meeting or talking to people
- avoidance of social situations
- few friends outside the family
- many worries about things before they happen
- constant worries or concerns about family, school, friends, or activities
- repetitive, unwanted thoughts (obsessions) or actions (compulsions)
- fears of embarrassment or making mistakes
- low self esteem and lack of self-confidence
Fear is Real
As trivial as a fear may seem, it feels real to the child and it is causing him or her to feel anxious and afraid. “Being able to talk about fears can help,” Dr. Manassis says:
“Words often take some of the power out of emotion; if you can give the fear a name it becomes more manageable. As with any negative feeling, the more you talk about it, the more it becomes less powerful.”
Always believe your child’s fears
Telling a child, “Don’t be ridiculous! There are no monsters in your closet!” may get him to go to bed, but it won’t make the fear go away.
However, don’t cater to fears. If your child doesn’t like dogs, don’t cross the street deliberately to avoid one. This will reinforce that dogs should be feared and avoided.
Teach the child how to rate fear
Teach your child how to rate the intensity of the fear on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the strongest. Your child may be able to “see” the fear as less intense than first imagined. Younger children can think about how “full of fear” they are, with being full “up to my knees” as not so scared, “up to my stomach” as more frightened, and “up to my head” as truly petrified.
Teach coping strategies
Try these easy-to-implement techniques. Using you as “home base,” the child can venture out toward the feared object, and then return to you for safety before venturing out again. The child can also learn some positive self-statements, such as “I can do this” and “I will be OK,” which he can say to himself when he feels anxious. Relaxation techniques are helpful as well, including visualization (of floating on a cloud or lying on a beach, for example) and deep breathing (imagining that the lungs are balloons and letting them slowly deflate).
Other strategies to implement
- Set realistic expectations for your child
- Use positive statements and reinforcement “I love the way you did that!”
- Allow your child to succeed on his /her own
- Allow your child to learn how to manage his/her own feelings by using a feeling chart
- Avoid passing your anxiousness and fears onto your child
If your child has an unusual pattern of constant fears and anxiousness, contact your medical doctor and schedule a physical appointment. Share your concerns with your medical doctor.