My child is anxious, what do I do?
If you have an anxious child…you are not alone! Millions of other parents around the world are standing in the same position. Parenting an anxious child is challenging, overwhelming and difficult at times.
As a parent, it is important to take on the responsibility of learning about childhood anxiety, deepening your understanding of what it’s like for them, and how to help them manage it.
As a family, there are two ways of facing childhood anxiety: you can be overwhelmed by the journey to healing or take it as an opportunity to nurture, grow and love as a family.
You cannot undo anxiety. You cannot fix it overnight. And you certainly cannot protect your child from stress triggers 24/7. Think of it like this:
Your goal is not to eliminate the anxiety but to help your child learn to tolerate their anxiety and function as well as possible, while they are anxious.
As this practice continues, the anxiety may fall or drop away later on.
What is anxiety?
The first step to helping your child manage their anxiety is to learn all about anxiety and truly understand it.
As humans, we have the fight-or-flight response to situations. Everyone reacts differently in order to protect themseleves from ‘danger’ (whatever that may look like for each person individually).
This overload of emotions can overcome your physical health, mental health and emotional health. Anxiety can trigger the part of the brain that starts the fight-or-flight response.
500,000 Australian children experience an anxiety disorder. Anxiety is more common than you think.
You might be thinking, “once that threat of danger has passed the anxiety must go away”. That is not the case for anxious children. The anxiety can stay for days and completely disrupt their school life, family life and simple day-to-day activities.
Anxious children spend a huge amount of time with their fight-or-flight response in full swing. Note: This is not by choice.
Can you imagine the exhaustion and stress levels for anxious children? It does not matter if the threat is imagined or real – their body and mind reacts the same. This can also cause stress for the family and friends around them.
3 simple steps to help your child manage anxiety
Every family is different and it is important to ensure you are taking into account those differences. You know your family best and you know how to apply these steps to suit them.
The first step is to lift it up to God. Surrender before God and just let Him speak. Invite your child to sit beside you, pray with you and just enjoy God’s presence. He is the one and only true Healer. He wants to hear from you both. You can also pray as a family about the anxiety and just ask God to do His will.
The second step is to gain knowledge about anxiety. Read books about it, listen to podcasts, and talk with other parents that may also have anxious children. A deep understanding of the physiology and psychology of anxiety helps you identify when it strikes, what triggers the anxiety and how to help your child respond best.
The third step is to develop a lifestyle that minimises anxiety. There are simple changes that can be made to help your child’s lifestyle minimise the chance of anxiety triggers around them. For example, getting better sleep at night can help or eating healthy, nutritious food. Knowing their value and purpose can also help minimise anxiety.
Parenting an anxious child can be overwhelming at times but it’s important to see it as an opportunity to build resilience and grit in your child.
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