What should parents do when they find out that their child suffers from anxiety? Anxieties amongst children and adolescents are widespread and they affect anywhere from five to 18% of them. However, parents of kids that suffer from severe anxiety disorders should take a few steps in order to help their children cope better with their excessive fears and worries, and live healthy lives.
How can parents help their anxious children? Here are a few simple things a parent should do:
Prepare your children for the changes in their lives.
Many of the child’s fears are associated with moving to a new area or city, moving to a new school, divorce, leaving a friend behind, among others. In most cases these changes are known to the parents in advance, and they can make reasonable efforts to “cushion” the child’s stress. Explain to them why you have to make the change or what caused that change (in a case of a death of a relative for example) and address the child concerns. In case you are moving your child to a new school or city, you might want to take a trip there with your child, and slowly introduce him or her to the new environment.
Many of the kids experience anxiety due to “modeling” their parents’ behavior.
You don’t have to put up a brave face every time you are up against danger or major change, but positive attitude towards change and calculated risk-taking should serve as a good example. Studies show that children, whose parents are suffering from anxiety, are up to seven times more likely to become anxiety sufferers as well. Many doctors believe that in such cases prevention is far better than treatment.
Handle your child’s fears with care and understanding.
You first step should be to make the child express and share his or her fears with you, after that you must try to teach your child some strategies and ways to cope with these fears – if they feel like they have control over the situation, they might get over their irrational fears faster. Make sure that you give your children enough time to overcome their fears, in some cases this might take months, even years. A very good way to give a reasonable explanation and ways of understanding your child’s excessive fears is using children’s books.
Talk and listen to your child
Talking and listening to your child will make you aware of his or her concerns and worries, but in some cases you can observe the anxiety symptoms in the child’s behavior and they can be expressed as aggression, defiance, temper tantrums, destructive behavior, poor eye contact, crying, etc. These, of course, might be a simple indicator of overload, or in rare cases if serious mental illness. Nevertheless, addressing them on time is vital for the child’s health and future development.
Make sure that your child is adequately protected
Children that feel that their home is a safe heaven are less likely to develop anxiety disorders. Remember that sexual or physical abuse can scar your child for life! Also, remember that children can be abused not only by adults, but by their peers as well, and today many children are subjected to verbal and physical abuse at school. Watch out for worrisome symptoms and act immediately – do not try unnecessarily overprotecting your children, but make sure that they are safe at all times.
Your child’s anxiety can be effectively treated with the help of various therapies (especially when the family is involved in them), but late diagnosis and treatment can lead to under-performance at school, depression, and even alcohol and substance abuse.