No parent likes to see their child suffering. With one in eight children likely to suffer from some sort of anxiety disorder, parents can feel the pressure to help their children cope. Anxiety in children that is not adequately addressed and treated can quickly turn into a lifelong battle.
If your child is having a hard time with anxiety, you want to do everything that you can to help as a parent. Finding the root causes, dealing with a therapist specializing in online counseling for kids, and creating a safe space for your child to share their fears is a priority for parents.
Anxiety in children can be caused by a combination of genetic and external factors. If an adult family member has a history of mental illness or anxiety disorders, this could lead to your child’s struggles. External factors like stress in the home or at school can easily trigger these issues and make them worse.
Causes of Childhood Anxiety
Most children will experience moments of stress brought on by school pressure or parental separation. Anxiety disorders in children go beyond the occasional natural worries that most kids experience. Children worry about all areas of their lives and even things that are unlikely to happen outside the realm of everyday living.
When a child’s worrying starts to go outside of the bounds of occasional stress and begins to change their daily behavior in an attempt to cope with worry, your child may be dealing with an anxiety disorder. Some behavioral signs associated with anxiety disorders in children include:
Problems making friends and relating socially to peers
Moodiness and irritability
Restlessness and insomnia
Poor academic performance
Problems concentrating; lack of focus
Strategies to Help Your Child Cope With Anxiety
Create a “Worry Time”
If your child struggles with anxiety, sweeping it under the rug by simply telling them to “stop worrying” isn’t going to be enough to calm their fears. Creating a regular time where they can address their worries each day can be helpful. Acknowledging their fears can help them classify their fears and designate a specific time to express their thoughts. When an adult or child is forced to discuss or focus on only their fears for a specific period of time, the negative soundtrack eventually becomes boring, and the “flight or fight” panic response will become dulled.
Some level of worry and anxiety is acceptable and natural for children. Worrying is the human equivalent of a survival instinct. If there isn’t caution in our behavior, we don’t have the same ability to survive. Parents need to learn that erasing all worries or stress points from their child’s mind is counterproductive. It is better to talk to your child about what fears are acceptable and those that are too imaginative or irrational.
Teaching your child with anxiety how to self-soothe is an essential part of therapy. As a parent, you don’t want your child to be too dependent on you to ease their fears, but rather be able to help them calm down when overwhelmed by anxiety. Talk to your child about the kind of activities or environments that help them to feel calmer.
Create an “anti-anxiety” or relaxation kit that your child can turn to if they feel overwhelmed. For example, a decorated bin that contains their favorite toys, a meditative coloring book set, a favorite piece of calming music, or some kinetic sand that can help the mind rest.
Face the Fear
Running from anxiety is not going to be helpful to arm your child with the tools they will need to cope as they move into adulthood. It’s always recommended that the fears that are plaguing your child be faced and conquered.
If your child suffers from separation anxiety, you can start slowly by simply leaving the room for a few minutes at a time, making each period longer as you go through the process.
For children that suffer from social anxiety, allowing them to avoid situations with friends and peers may give temporary relief, but can develop into crippling lifelong issues. Slowly introducing exposure therapy where your child is forced to face their irrational fears can help them build up coping mechanisms and feel more confident when they are struck with anxious feelings.
The feeling of being embraced is one of the most effective ways to combat anxiety for both children and adults. For kids, it’s impossible to be with them for a hug every time they are feeling stressed. Adding a weighted blanket to their relaxation kit can be both cozy and helpful. Studies show that anxiety patients that regularly use a weighted blanket report that they can go to sleep faster and sleep for more extended uninterrupted periods.
Getting enough sleep can be a challenge for anyone that suffers from anxiety. A weighted blanket could help your child to feel comforted and safe when they go to bed or anytime they are feeling stressed.
As a parent, it can be heartbreaking to watch your child struggle with any illness or issue. Helping your child to overcome anxiety is going to be a team effort. Follow some of these tips to help your child learn valuable coping skills, talk to an online counselor about easing your child’s fears, and teaching them acceptance of the things they can control.