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Are you anxious about your child's anxiety?

Posted by Meg Parkinson on 23 February 2015

Every child deals with some form of anxiety at some point in their life, whether that's monsters under the bed, to failure at school, or being afraid they won't fit in. Although these are usually short-lived and a normal part of childhood, sometimes anxieties can linger and worsen to an extent where they begin to impact a child's everyday life.

What are some typical anxieties that children experience?

Separation, social situations, failure, criticism or tests, getting physically hurt, anxiety about not being perfect, world events, wellbeing of family members.

What causes anxiety in children?

Some people are more likely to be anxious because it runs in the family (just like eye colour). People can also learn to think and behave in an anxious way by watching others, or by going through experiences that the child perceives as scary. Certain things in a child's environment might also increase the child's chances of becoming anxious for example, if a parent is inadvertently overprotective of a shy child it might help the child in the short term, but can increase the child's anxiety overall, or if the child senses any difficulties that the parents might be going through. Unfortunately, the more anxious parents become about their child's anxiety, the more anxious the child often becomes.

 How can parents help with their child's fears or worries?

Some ideas:

1. Acknowledge your child's fear don't dismiss or ignore it. This helps to separate the feeling from the behaviour
2. Use magic lollies/ wand.  Get them to imagine the situation if they weren't anxious, ask them how they feel, what they would be doing.
3. Teach them how to manage their thinking. E.g how to park their thoughts for awhile, go and do something they like, then come back to it to see if they still feel worried, maybe they can now start to come up with some solutions.
4. Break the situation up into bits. Gently encourage your child to do things she's anxious about, but don't push her to face whole situations she doesn't want to face, decide which part of it she will do today.
5. Encourage your child for doing something he's anxious about. Focus on the positive feelings you get when you do something you are anxious about.
6. Avoid labelling your child as 'shy' or 'anxious'. This can set up a self fulfilling prophecy. 
Author: Meg Parkinson
Tags: anxiety worried children stressed children
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