WHAT TO SAY AND NOT TO SAY TO YOUR ANXIOUS CHILD
When your child is feeling anxious, even the most well-meaning parents may unknowingly pronounce hurtful words to their child. So, instead of alleviating your child’s anxious feelings, you will dismiss them. It is essential to remain calm and positive when encountering your child’s anxiety.
Here are 7 phrases to avoid and what to say instead:
1. “Don’t worry.” Saying these words will not prevent your child from worrying as She already does. This statement implies that her worries are unreasonable or unacceptable. Instead, say to your child “Can you tell me more about your worries?”
2. “It is not big deal.” Children generally know that their worries are indeed a big deal as they can affect their school performance, their relationships with their peers or their family. So instead, try this: “I notice you are feeling very anxious about this. Let’s do deep breathing exercises together.”
3. “You will be fine.” Your child will not feel reassured by this statement, as it does not resonate with what she experiences. Instead, give her some emotional support by saying “I am here to help you.”
4. “There is nothing to be afraid of.” Children do fear a lot of things in their daily life: judgement, peer rejection, failure at school or in sport/artistic activities. To ease your child’s fear, open the conversation by saying “Let’s talk about that.”
5. “I will do it.” When a child gets stuck because she is anxious, you might be tempted to do the task yourself. However, this does not help your child build coping skills. Instead, support your child by saying “I know you feel anxious about this. I am here to support you. What do you think is the best way to do it?”
6. “Stop thinking about that.” Your child would probably love to do this but cannot. So, instead give her support by saying “Let’s talk to your worried brain by telling it positive stuff.”
7. “I don’t know what you need.” This statement will frighten your child as she relies on you to help her. If you express helplessness, your child’s anxiety will spike. Try this phrase: “Let’s find strategies to help calm your mind right now.”
Coping with anxiety is a learning process that takes time, patience, and practice. By responding with compassion and by exploring with your child different strategies, she will progressively become better at dealing with her anxiety.
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.