I have practiced child and family psychotherapy for 20 years. Of all the problems I help clients with, anxiety is one of the most common, and I have seen a significant increase in children with anxiety in my practice.
Childhood anxiety is particularly painful because it not only causes suffering and stress in children, it also hurts parents. As parents we are wired to feel our children’s pain and to respond to help. This is particularly true for mothers.
The challenge is to support children when they are stressed or afraid without shielding them from life’s challenges.
If your child is suffering from fears that are preventing him or her from sleeping well or engaging in the activities that are important to childhood (school, friends, activities), these tips will help you learn how to comfort them.
1. Do not try to talk your child out of his fears or tell him he has no reason to be afraid. This will never actually remove the anxiety, but it may make the child feel ashamed that he feels the way they do.
Anxiety is illogical, but it is very real.
2. Children benefit greatly from knowing that many children and adults struggle with worries and that there are things they can do that will help. One of the best strategies is to learn to manage thoughts.
I help my child clients make a list of what their worry is “telling” them, and then we analyze whether it is really true or not. It is empowering to learn that worry is a bully and a liar, and we can talk back when it is trying to bother us.
3. Be patient, and try to stay calm. When parents get emotional or upset, it always increases the same feelings in children.
In addition, avoid rescuing your child from the things that make him or her scared. Doing so only prevents the development of needed coping skills.
4. Some fears are temporary episodes that subside with some support and comfort. If your child’s anxiety is persisting and preventing him from taking part in activities that are important, get help.
Anxiety is a normal part of childhood, and is usually a temporary phase. However, more significant anxiety or anxiety disorders affect about 1 in 8 children.
The good news is that this anxiety is very treatable, and usually without medication. Taking care to support and empower your child, and seeking professional help when needed, is bound to help.
Tracy McConaghie, LCSW, RPT/S, CPDLT, works with clients of all ages, with a specialty in children, teens and parenting. Her husband Andrew is a couples counselor, and together they run McConaghie Counseling in Alpharetta. They can be reached at 770-645-8933, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Raising children and being married is hard, and McConaghie Counseling can help. We offer expert, solution-focused counseling for relationship problems, recovery from affairs, depression, anxiety, adolescent challenges, behavior problems and parenting.
Visit our website at www.mcconaghiefamilycounseling.com to learn more, to schedule an appointment, or to join a parenting class.