Pediatric Anxiety – Six Smart Strategies to Help Your Child Overcome Worry
Worry is a part of life. We ruminate on things we are currently going through, things to be and things that should have been. But when excessive worry gets in the way of living, help is necessary. And when it comes to our kids, being proactive means potentially saving them from years of struggle down the road.
Since anxiety cannot be eliminated, it is important for children (and adults) to be taught proper management tools. Here are six smart strategies for effectively helping your child overcome worry.
Smart Strategy #1: Stop Saying Everything is Okay
When your child is worrying over something you know they have no reason to worry about, it is very easy to reassure them. Train yourself to stop doing this. Instead, try to see things from their perspective. In their minds, their worry is very real. Sit down, listen and be empathetic. Have them take some deep breaths in order to calm down. Once they are calm you can look for potential solutions to managing their concerns.
Smart Strategy #2: Don’t Avoid Stressors
The natural instinct ingrained in each of us is to run from scary and stressful situations. It is important for your child to learn to face their worries head on. If a child is anxious about something in their life, rather than removing the source of their anxiety, teach them skills to lessen the power the stressor has over them.
Smart Strategy #3: Validate, Don’t Exacerbate
When your child is overwhelmed with worry it is essential to not get caught up in their anxiety. This can exacerbate the problem. Instead, stay calm. Your child is looking to you for how to react to different situations; therefore your own anxiety must be kept in check. Consider grabbing a coloring book and coloring a page or two together. This will help prevent the issue from escalating and will give both you and your child a chance to come back down and manage the concern head-on.
Smart Strategy #4: “Do or do not. There is no try.”
Very wise advice from Yoda. It means that you must fully address whatever the issue is at hand. In the case of your child’s worry, teach them ways to problem solve. Be careful to not solve the problem for your child. Let them own that responsibility. If needed, offer some solutions but let your child choose the one that makes the most sense to them.
Smart Strategy #5: Be Optimistic
You are the most important person in your child’s world. As such, they look to you for how they should act. If you find yourself overly negative, make a change. Negativity breeds anxiety. If you wear a frown more often than a smile, make a change. Look in the mirror from time to time and see if your expression makes you feel happy. While it isn’t realistic to be happy all the time, you should make it a priority to try to be as often as possible. One idea is to start a grateful book. Each day write 5 things you are grateful for. When possible, share this exercise with your child and perhaps they can begin the ritual as well. By focusing on the good in life, the stressors that often rule the day to day will take a less prominent role. Over time your child will learn to emulate this behavior and will be less likely to be overcome by anxiety when stressful situations occur.
Smart Strategy #6: Be Calm
Practice what you preach. If you want your child to be calmer, model this behavior as well. See yourself through their eyes. If you are constantly stressed over your responsibilities and rush around from place to place, they will learn to do the same. If you are anxious, your child will pick up on your anxiety. This leads to increasing their anxiety levels. Instead, slow down and take a few breaths. Practice relaxation exercises with your child in order to become more centered and calm. The coloring exercise mentioned earlier is very good for helping calm the mind. A walk or a bike ride is another great idea!
Anxiety is something that will always be a part of our lives. By teaching our children tools to manage stress, we help strengthen their ability to handle all kinds of challenging situations. As always, the team at Rainbow Pediatrics is here for you. If you have concerns about your child, give us a call to schedule an appointment today.