Occasionally I get requests from writers to post on my blog. I find this flattering of course and am pleased to share a platform with anyone who is trying to help others. A while back Noah Smith reached out to me asking to share his writing on helping children with anxiety. As a mom of a son with OCD and social anxiety this issue is particularly close to my heart. I appreciate Noah taking time to write about it and am pleased to share his words here:
With the world in the state it’s in, it’s no wonder that children and teens are having a hard time coping with anxiety. Violent incidents captured on camera and shared on television and social media, cyber bullying, and the pressures (including peer pressure to use popular drugs) that come with school and relationships are just a few of the things kids deal with these days. No matter how hard you try as a parent to give your child a loving environment to grow in, sometimes there are things that are simply out of your control when it comes to their wellbeing.
For this reason, it’s important to help your child learn ways to work around feelings of anxiety and focus on positive thinking. This can help both of you when those feelings surface. Here are some of the best ways to help your child cope with anxiety and the stress that comes with it.
Don’t avoid situations
It might seem like the best idea is to have your child avoid situations that trigger his anxiety, but that might actually make things worse. Facing his fears is often the best way to learn how to cope with them, and the best way to do this is to be prepared. Help him picture the scenario that’s giving him worry and ask him to think of two ways he can handle it. For instance, if he’s anxious about being separated from you in a public place or missing the bus at school, have him come up with solutions so that if those things ever did happen, he’d have a plan.
No parent wants their child to worry or stress, but it’s important to validate your child’s feelings rather than simply telling him not to worry or be afraid. Let him know that it’s okay to have those worries sometimes and that no matter what happens, everything will be okay. It may also help to talk to your child about what you were afraid of when you were his age.
It might be helpful to do some research on anxiety and stress together. Talk about how being anxious makes your child feel and whether it affects him physically, as it can sometimes do. Feeling jittery, nauseous, or distracted are symptoms of anxiety but might not always be associated with it, and these things can affect your child’s performance at school or his ability to be social.
Learn coping techniques
There’s no one right way to deal with anxiety or negative thoughts, so it’s important to work through a few different techniques to see what works for your child. These can be anything from positive visualization to breathing exercises; if it helps your loved one get through those tough moments, encourage it. Remind him that those thoughts will come and go…”go” being the operative word.
If your child is having difficulty with eating or sleeping because of anxiety, help him find ways to relax. This might include taking a hot bath before bed, or finding different ways to eat meals rather than sticking to a routine. For instance, you might have a fun “carpet picnic” for dinner one night. Lay out a tablecloth or blanket in the living room and have a movie night, eat pizza or finger foods, and create a low-key atmosphere for the family.
Remember that anxiety is simply a feeling that can affect how we feel mentally and physically; it is not who we are. Help your child learn the best ways to cope with his own feelings of anxiety by keeping in mind that he is in control.
Author: Noah Smith
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-- Dr. Jordan