Dealing with Childhood Anxiety
As we know there are many key transitions in a child’s life that bring with them a certain amount of uncertainty and anxiety for both children and parents alike. However there are certain instances when this anxiety can become overwhelming for children. Every child is unique and some have better coping mechanisms than others. If your child is the type of child that worries a lot it can be very scary for parents. No parent wants to see their child stressing or worrying about life and quite often parents can try to take on board to sort their worries out. Even the most well-meaning parents can fall into a negative cycle and, not wanting a child to suffer, actually exacerbate the anxiety. Here are some tips for parents to consider:
- Introduce coping mechanisms to practice with your child when he/she becomes anxious. Some things to consider might be deep breathing exercises, awareness of how the body feels when they are anxious, positive forecasting/predicting positive outcomes and helping your child visualize in the minds eye what this positive outcome will look like.
- Validate their fears or concerns. However small they may appear to you as a parent one has to consider how real and valid they are to a child. Try not to be dismissive of their feelings. Instead really try to hear their concerns but frame the outcome in a positive light. Predict your child being successful in overcoming their fear and be realistic with regards to what your child can achieve. This will help to empower your child and build up their self esteem.
- Do not try to avoid situations that you think may cause anxiety for your child. Hiding your child away from real life situations is not helpful in the long term.
- Allow your child to express their feelings and use their own words. As parents we are often guilty of thinking we know our child best and implying what is worrying them. Sometimes we may ask leading questions such as ‘Is it making friends you are worried about’? Give you child the time and space to communicate with you in their own words what is actually worrying them.
- Fun social stories are a great way of giving children a concrete mental image of what to expect. For many children having a plan and knowing what to expect can alleviate many fears.
- Model positive ways of coping with anxiety. Be honest with children about things that worry you and try to model to them positive ways of reducing this anxiety. Practicing deep breathing and predicting your own success in terms of overcoming anxiety in from on your child sends a very powerful message. Always remember to never let your stress become your child’s stress.
For more tips and advice on managing your child’s anxiety you can visit:
Dr Mary O’Kane Facebook Page
Dr. Mary O’Kane is a leading expert in the field of Early Childhood. Mary also provides training seminars for preschool providers and parents in the areas of well-being and self esteem, resilience in young children, anxiety and childhood worries, positive behaviour management, and preparing children for primary/secondary school. Mary has a monthly parenting slot on Ireland AM and is a regular contributor on various Irish radio stations discussing parenting and early childhood education issues.
Childrens Mental Health Ireland : A – Z
Childhood Anxiety Disorder HSE Website
Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service : CAMHS HSE Website
ISPCC Advice on Childrens Mental Health