How To Help A Child Struggling With Anxiety »

Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health conditions affecting children and teenagers. Symptoms of anxiety can be distressing for kids and disrupt their daily functioning. As a parent or caregiver, you play a critical role in supporting a child struggling with anxiety. Here are some tips on how to help:

Validate Their Feelings

Let your child know that you take their anxiety seriously. Avoid minimising or dismissing their worries as silly or ridiculous. Anxiety feels very real for them, even if the trigger seems minor to you. Validate that their feelings make sense and reassure them that you are there for them. Say things like, “I understand this feeling is scary for you. I’m here to help you through this.”

Find the Roots of Their Anxiety

Often, anxiety arises from underlying issues like bullying, academic stress, social difficulties, or other pressures. Have an open conversation to understand what’s contributing to their worries. Getting to the root causes will allow you to better address the problem. With older kids, ask them directly what’s making them anxious. For younger children, observe what situations tend to precede their anxious episodes.

Help Them Build Coping Strategies

Equip your child with healthy ways to manage anxiety. Strategies like deep breathing, visualisation, and progressive muscle relaxation can calm the body and mind. Regular exercise is also excellent for easing anxiety. Help them identify coping mechanisms that work best for them. Have them practice these strategies at home to build confidence.

Create a Calm Home Environment

Your home should be a safe space where your child feels secure and relaxed. Keep things low-key by limiting clutter, noise, and stimulation. Have regular family routines like mealtimes and bedtime. Make sure your child is getting adequate sleep and nutrition, as these are foundational for mental health. Spending quality time together as a family also strengthens the home environment.

If your child’s anxiety has become unmanageable, consider types of professional support like counselling, therapy and, in some cases, medication. If you are fostering the child, speak to the foster agency for advice.

Avoid Enabling Anxiety

It’s natural to want to protect your child from distress. However, catering to their anxiety too much can reinforce the unhealthy avoidance cycle. If your child refuses to go to school due to separation anxiety, sitting with them all day at home enables the avoidance. Similarly, allowing them to sleep with you for comfort only strengthens the anxiety over time. Support your child by encouraging them to face fears, not avoid them.

Express Encouragement and Pride

Throughout the anxiety recovery process, offer plenty of praise and encouragement. Anxiety can erode a child’s self-esteem. Bolster their confidence with compliments on how brave they are as they learn to confront fears. Let them know you believe in their ability to overcome challenges. Your unwavering support gives them the strength to keep making progress.

With compassion, patience and the right help, your child can break free from the grip of anxiety. Stay positive – with your guidance, they will learn how to manage anxious feelings in healthier ways.

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