Growing up with negative experiences increases the likelihood of having anxiety issues later in life, and so does having parents who models negative behaviors. In children, excessive anxiety can come in variety of ways. Some might struggle with separation anxiety, where they are afraid to go anywhere without their parents. Some children are born with an anxious temperament and seem to be anxious of many situations right from the beginning. Others might struggle with social anxiety, afraid of anything from raising their hand in class to eating in front of others.
Therapy and a change in parenting styles might be able to prevent kids from developing anxiety disorders. There are therapy sessions where family learns how to identify signs of anxiety in their kids and try to reduce them by incorporating problem-solving skills.
Children struggling with excessive anxiety may show the following signs:
- Negative thinking patterns such as imagining the worst, self-criticism, guilty thoughts, etc.
- Constantly worrying about things that might happen or have happened.
- Anger, aggression, tantrums, irritability, opposition and defiance.
- Avoiding activities and family interactions
- Physical complaints such as stomach-aches, headaches etc.
- Avoidance behaviors, such as avoiding things or refusing to do things or go places.
- Excessive parent separation anxiety.
- Poor memory and concentration.
- Eating disorders.
- Difficulty falling or staying asleep, nightmares.
How You Can Help Your Anxious Child
Parental support can benefit anxious children to a great deal. Following tips will provide you with some ideas for helping your anxious child.
General tips to help your child keep calm:
- Encourage them to do some regular exercise, as it can reduce the levels of stress hormones.
- Learn relaxation techniques.
- Encourage good sleeping habits – calm bedtime routines, and not too much screen time before bed.
- Help your child have a healthy diet. Avoid too much sugar or additives or caffeinated drinks.
- Encourage them to some art, writing or listen to music regularly.
Encourage your child to face his/her fears
Don’t let your child run away from his fears.When we are afraid of situations we usually avoid them. However, avoiding anxiety-provoking situations maintains the anxiety. Instead, if a child faces his or her fears, the child will learn that the anxiety reduces naturally on its own over time.
Help your child solve problems
This does not mean solving the problem for your child. Let him do it for himself. Help your child to identify possible solutions. If your child can come up with solutions, that’s great. If not, generate some potential solutions for your child and ask your child to pick the solution that he or she thinks would work best.
Focus on the positives
Many times stressed and anxious children can get lost in negative thoughts. In such situation, try and focus on the positivity. The more you are able to focus on your child's positive attributes and the good aspects of a situation, the more it will remind your child to focus on the positives.
Schedule relaxing activities
Unfortunately, sometimes even fun activities, like sports, can become more about success than they are about fun. Let the children be kids.Let them relax. It is important to ensure that your child engages in play solely for the sake of fun. This may include scheduling time each day for your child to play with toys, play a sport (without it being competitive), paly a game, doing yoga, paint or read.
Bring Your Child's Worry to Life
Ignoring anxiety doesn't help. But bringing worry to life and talking about it like a real person can help. You can help your child by acknowledging and accepting his feelings through simply reflecting them back to his and refraining from providing advice or asking questions. When a child’s feelings are criticized or not accepted by a parent, his internal sense of self is weakened.
Provide Soothing and Comforting Strategies
Comforting and soothing a child are very helpful strategies that parents can use in relieving anxiety. These strategies communicate to the child that he/she is safe and cared for. Verbal reassurances of safety and love, cuddling, holding, singing, and telling stories are just some of the soothing strategies that parents can use. Anxious children do need extra comfort that relaxes and relieves the tension in their mind and bodies.
Children learn behaviors from watching their parents. So if you avoid anxiety-provoking situations, so will your child. If you face your fears, so will your child. If you take care of yourself, your child will learn that self-care is an important part of life. If you look for the positive in situations, so will your child. Your child will do what you do. So when you think about your child's psychological well-being think about your own as well.
Rida Shakeel is the Sr. Content Analyst at Fitness Republic, a platform that makes living simple and fun. With a passion for wellness, she utilizes her writing ability to incorporate healthy lifestyle into everyday life. She has an obsession with health and fitness and is passionate about helping others become happier and healthier.