"It is normal for very young children to be afraid of the dark, or for school-age children to worry about making friends. But sometimes normal childhood anxiety morphs into something more serious. A young girl might be afraid to ever leave her mother's side, even to get on the school bus, or an anxious boy might need frequent reassurance over things that happened a month ago" (Boorady). Here are some common symptoms of anxiety in children
Because we love our children so much, we often try to do things to calm or dissipate our child's anxiety, like avoiding the thing that causes them discomfort. However, unfortunately, this reinforces the power of the place or event that is causing them anxiety. To help them develop the coping skills, a child to needs to sit with the uncomfortable feeling and realize they can and have the tools to get through it.
Below are several things you can do with your anxious child when they are seeking comfort:
Reframing- Discussing why the worry is not 100% true and try to look at the positive aspects of the situation. For example, if a child is worried about going to school, you can discuss why they are worried (friends teasing them, not feeling confident in their intelligence, etc) and discuss things they enjoy about school (their favorite art class at school and remind them of the positive friends and teachers they have).
Practice breathing slowly- If they cannot focus on their breathing, giving them some water will make them take a deep breath after sipping.
Externalize the worry/fear- "Stop bothering me worry! You can't make me unhappy! I am in control here!"
Try to avoid statements like "calm down" or "relax". Even though these statements come from a supportive place, they often feel patronizing and like the other person is trying to brush their feelings under the rug.
Empathize with your child. It often helps a child to feel like they aren't alone in being anxious; as well as, feeling like they are cared and valued.
Captain Snout an the Super Power Questions
Wilma Jean the Worry Machine
The Kissing Hand
Written by: Allison Bates, LAPC