HELPING YOUR CHILD MANAGE ANXIETY
Anxiety is a normal response to a stressful or dangerous situation. However, it becomes problematic when it arises at unexpected moments or is in full swing. When a child or a teen experiences anxiety, symptoms such as unexplained headaches or stomachaches may interfere with sleeping, eating and school. As a parent, you can help your child cope with it.
Here are a few strategies:
1. Do not talk your child/teen out of it. It might be tempting to try to reassure your child by saying to her “Do not worry about it. It will go away.” Telling your teen these words do not make her feel validated in her feelings. In addition, your child does not know how to stop her anxiety. So instead, ask her what her experience is and acknowledge it. Your child/teen needs to see that someone gets her.
2. Normalize her feelings. Explain to her that anxiety is normal and that everyone experiences it at some time in their life -before an exam, when meeting new people, starting a new school. Sometimes, it also happens without obvious reasons.
3. Explain the nuts and bolts of anxiety. Tell your child/teen that anxiety is caused by some part of her brain (the amygdala) that thinks she needs protection from a potential danger. Its job is to get your child ready to run away from the danger or fight it. The problem is that the amygdala does not make the difference between a real danger, let’s say a wild dog running toward her, or going to a new school. In both cases, the amygdala is working hard to protect her and anxiety gets then triggered.
4. Teach your child to breathe slowly and deeply. Since anxiety modifies the regular breathing pace, it is useful to help your child regain control of her normal breathing pattern. Tell her to hold her breath just for a second between breathing in and breathing out. Make sure the breath is going right down into her belly – not just into her chest. You can tell because her belly will be moving. Do this about 5 to 10 times. Remind her to practice regularly.
5. Practice mindfulness. Research shows that practicing mindfulness provides relief and protection from stress, anxiety, and depression. Being present in the moment, which is the concept of mindfulness, helps to have or regain control over the brain when worrying does not stop.
Here’s the how you can help your child/teen practice:
Anxiety is treatable but it might take time. So, it is essential to keep practicing mindfulness and deep and slow breathing to reach the goal.
As a parent and a therapist, I want to offer some tips on how to raise happy and healthy kids. Please feel free to comment on my posts.