We've got tips for talking to your children about anxiety.
Step 1: Encouraging Your Child to Talk About Their Fears And Worries
The first step you can take if you think your child may be suffering from an anxiety disorder is encouraging them to talk about their fears and worries. Be accepting of their feelings and stay calm. This will help your child stay calm too. Remember, hearing "Don't worry, relax!" likely doesn't help you if you are anxious about something. It also will not help your child.
If you have noticed a situation when your child seemed anxious, ask them about it. Let them know that you noticed that they were uncomfortable and ask then how they felt. You can also describe a situation where you were anxious about something when you were their age.
Step 2: Teach Your Child About Anxiety
Make sure your child knows that anxiety is normal and that everyone feels anxiety from time to time.
Anxiety is adaptive. Anxiety can help us deal with dangerous situations, such as coming face-to-face with a bear in the woods, or help us to perform at our best, such as when getting ready to recite in class. However, anxiety can become a problem when our bodies react like there is danger when there isn’t any real danger. Anxiety is helpful when it works right, but if it happens often and when there is no real danger, then you may want to work to fix it.
Anxiety has three parts. Our thoughts (what we say to ourselves), our physical feelings (how our body responds) and our behaviours (what we do).
Step 3: Help Your Child Recognize Anxiety
To help a younger child recognize physical symptoms of anxiety, you can draw a sketch of a body and ask your child to draw where they feel anxiety. Does it make their tummy funny? Their head hurt? Older kids may rather just talk about it without any pictures.
No matter what your child’s age, you can help your child understand that anxiety, and not real danger, can cause them to miss out on some very important things and a lot of fun. You can have your child answer the questions: If I woke up tomorrow and didn’t feel anxious, what would I do? How would I act?
You can also have them finish the following sentences:
- My anxiety stops me from…
- When I am not anxious, I will be able to…
Once you have gone through these three steps with your child, they will be better prepared to learn how to manage their anxiety. There are steps you can take to help your child.
For more tips on children's anxiety, check out Maternity Corner.