Parenting a child with anxiety can sometimes feel as though you are walking a high wire; any movement which upsets the balance could result in catastrophe. It can often be difficult to determine what is your child’s behaviour, and needs to be dealt with accordingly, and what is a result of their anxiety, and needs your empathy. All too easily you can find yourself being too permissive of inappropriate behaviour, or having expectations of them which are beyond their capabilities at that time. This is a frequent dilemma which parents tell me the find themselves in when I first begin to work with their child. Here is my guide to the top five strategies which parents can use today if they have a child with anxiety:
1. Believe in your child’s ability to overcome
Your child might be scared of sleeping alone right now, but if you show him you believe it is something which he an overcome, you create a more empowering sauce.
2. Acknowledge the emotion behind the behaviour
This helps all children but is particularly important for anxious children who need to know that their feelings are valid. You might not be able to understand or relate to your child’s anxiety around friendships, for example, but your empathy validates your child’s feelings which is an important first step. Dismissing a child’s feelings by telling them there’s nothing to worry about only leads to more anxiety and a feeling that their emotions are somehow abnormal or wrong.
3. Discuss the physical side of anxiety
Explain to your child how anxiety is our bodies alarm system which dates back to the time of sabre tooth tigers. We needed a way of being alerted to danger quickly so we could run away and avoid being eaten. Although the sabre tooth tigers are now gone the alarm system is still there and it sometimes goes off when there is no real danger.
4. Problem solve bespoke solutions
Each child needs their own set of tools and strategies for dealing with their unique anxiety. Talking to your child about what they could do to help themselves when they experience anxiety is key to helping them cope in the future
5. Learn to recognise the difference ebwteeen behaviour and anxiety
All our behaviour is driven by our emotions and anxiety this can be significantly heightened. The key differences which differentiate anxiety driven behaviour from behaviour which pushes boundaries is.