By Licensed Counselor, Maria Kitay, MSEd, NCC, LPC
Parenting can provide us with many blessings as well as challenges when our child is anxious. According to the CDC, 7.1% of children aged 3-17 years (approximately 4.4 million) have diagnosed anxiety. Our child’s challenges may make us feel anxious as parents, especially with so many children suffering from these feelings.
In order to help your child, it is important to know the basics. When presented with a stressful situation, children may respond in one of three ways; freeze (lack of a response to the negative event), flee (avoid the stressful event by running away) or fight (becoming argumentative and aggressive). If your child is experiencing physical symptoms, such as panic episodes, it is important to rule out symptoms of an illness, which may cause anxiety. Speak with your child’s pediatrician to determine the cause of their anxiety.
It is important to make sure your child understands they are not alone and that you are there to help them find a solution to manage their anxiety. One effective solution might be to reminisce with your child about strategies they used to overcome anxiety when they were younger. For example, you can say to your child, “I saw you struggling to learn to ride your bike and you never gave up, you were so brave”, “What did you say to yourself and how did you overcome the challenge of learning to ride your bike?” After your child responds, you could encourage them to draw a picture of the steps they took to learn to ride a bike. Ask your child to imagine, “what if you used the same courage to resolve your current worry?” Map out a plan of small changes your child can make to use their inner courage to overcome their fear and anxiety.
You can go over the plan that you mapped out with your child when needed to reduce their anxiety. Reinforce how courageous they were at the end of each day by identifying the changes that they have made when thinking about an anxiety-provoking situation. You should acknowledge that they are doing a great job using their inner strength and courage to conquer their fear and anxiety.
Another great way to help children overcome anxiety is through art and creative expression. I was working with a child who had a fear of going to school, so she would draw the butterflies in her stomach. We came up with a visual representation of releasing the butterflies which helped alleviate the anxiety she was feeling about school.
Spending time with your child to make small changes in how they view the world helps reduce their anxiety and can significantly reduce your anxiety as well. Having an open dialogue with your children about anxiety, fear and sadness is an important part of parenting and helps children understand that their feelings are valid and normal.
Anchorpoint provides pediatric counseling if your child is suffering from loneliness, anxiety or depression. Give us a call at 412-366-1300 to schedule an appointment today! Hope is only a phone call away.