How Parents Can Help A Child With Anxiety

Anxiety can be debilitating for people of all ages, but it is especially hard on children. Unfortunately, many parents may react poorly to childhood anxiety, which only serves to make the problem more pronounced. If you have a child who struggles with anxiety, there are many things you can do to help.

Here are some basic tips to make things easier on your whole family when dealing with an anxious child.

1. Be Calm

Sometimes, a stressed parent will only serve to further the stress of an already-anxious child. Teach yourself to respond calmly, especially in situations where a stressful reaction is not useful. For example, if your child sees you constantly stressed about being late, they can internalize that anxiety, adding it to a list of things that already cause tension. 

Model calm behavior for your child by using measured breathing, counting, or even humor to diffuse typically stressful situations, such as forgetting your wallet or losing your car keys. These are areas where you can show your child that life happens and it is not a big deal to have changes in plans because of unforeseen problems. 

2. Prepare

Preparation can often be the key to success. For example, if your child frets about getting to bus on time in the morning, or worries about whether or not he or she has finished and packed homework, ask you child to help you make preparations to remove these stressors. For example, you might:

  • pack bags the night before a trip so you can show your child you have remembered to bring everything. 
  • wake up a little earlier to make sure everyone has breakfast before leaving.
  • set out your clothes so you can walk to the bus stop with your child.

These preparations may seem unnecessary to you, but the small provisions show your child that there will, in fact, be enough time or that there is a plan in place. The comfort of the plan is what will keep anxious feelings at bay. If your child continues to struggle, you can review the plan together.

3. Praise small achievements.

Many children with anxiety can focus a lot on failure and future performance, worrying they will not do well or that they will make a mistake with everyone watching. In order to instill greater confidence, take time to notice and point out the things your child does well. You might say:

  • "Wow. I noticed you've been on time for the bus every day this week. We are on a roll!"
  • "You've spelled every word correctly on this list. You're like a spelling master."
  • "I heard you singing during church today. I'm glad to hear your voice. It makes me feel more comfortable to hear you sing next to me."

For more advice on dealing with child anxiety, contact a family counselor in your area.