Helping children with anxiety

Gordon Neufeld, PhD, shares advice for parents on how to help their children when they get bad anxiety
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Helping children with anxiety

Anxiety is a growing problem in children. It’s estimated that 1 out of every 5 children would actually qualify for a diagnosis. And so it’s of concern. Some anxiety is absolutely natural and we shouldn’t be surprised. It indicates that everything is well. But the key, the key to being able to deal with anxieties is to actually understand where anxiety comes from – the pieces of the puzzle had finally come together for us. We know now that anxiety is a conscious step of our alarm system in the brain. And what alarms us, and especially children, is when they’re facing separation. And when they face more separation than they can handle, they feel unsafe. The problem with separation is that it also blinds us and so, when the vulnerability is too much to bear, we don’t know what it is that alarms us and our brain invents reasons – obsessions and compulsions – we get afraid of the dark, of the monsters, all of a sudden, we see a red ball coming at us. And children have all kinds of obsessions and compulsions. The main thing to realize is everybody has an alarm system, anxiety is somewhat natural. We need to understand it to be able to address it. The two main things to address it are – one – to reduce the separation the child is facing. Look around, see where the child is facing separation. See if he can reduce it in some way. It may be physical, it may be emotional, it may be even in their mind. But you want to put the focus on connection, not separation. And secondly, you need to take a very strong take charge attitude – find the Alfa instincts in you. Your child needs to lean on you, depend upon you. If it doesn’t look like you’re in charge, if it doesn’t look as if you’re in control, they feel unsafe automatically. And so it’s very important to be able to present yourself as the answer to their needs, as the one that’s going to keep them safe.

Gordon Neufeld, PhD, shares advice for parents on how to help their children when they get bad anxiety


Expert Bio

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Gordon Neufeld, PhD

Psychologist & Author

Dr. Gordon Neufeld is a Vancouver-based developmental psychologist with over 40 years of experience with children and youth and those responsible for them. A foremost authority on child development, Dr. Neufeld is an international speaker, a bestselling author, Hold On to Your Kids and a leading interpreter of the developmental paradigm. Dr. Neufeld has a widespread reputation for making sense of complex problems and for opening doors for change. While formerly involved in university teaching and private practice, he now devotes his time to teaching and training others, including educators and helping professionals. His Neufeld Institute is now a worldwide organization devoted to applying developmental science to the task of raising children. Dr. Neufeld appears regularly on radio and television. He is a father of five and a grandfather of three.

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