How to Support Your Anxious Child

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Is Your Child Anxious? Here’s What You Can Do To Help …

BY JULIET REINER

Anxious kids don’t have to be anxious adults

Anxiety can be a hard emotion for adults to manage, so when kids feel anxious, they often don’t know what to do.

Regardless of your own experiences with anxiety, it can be hard to know how best to support your child when you see them showing early signs of anxiety.

Here’s 8 quick tips to get you started.

Tip #1: Praise Bravery

Keep an eye out for brave behaviour and encourage your child to just have a go. When he or she faces their fears – even in a small way – give them lots of praise and positive feedback. Give less attention to any non-brave behaviours.

Tip #2: Encourage Your Child To Be Independent

Find opportunities for your child to be responsible and complete activities by themselves. Praise and reward their bravery and confidence.

Tip #3: Be Your Child’s “Emotion Coach”

Show your child you understand their feelings by really listening and validating what they’re fearful of. Once you have, help them to problem solving solutions rather than focusing on their fears.

Tip #4: Model Bravery

Deliberately over-play how you approach your own fears, and talk your child through your brave steps/responses.

Tip #5: Set Realistic Expectations

Be realistic when it comes to your child and their abilities. Encourage and reinforce their efforts and competence. Discourage perfectionism.

Tip #6: Minimise Your Child’s Avoidant Behaviours and Your Over-Protection of Them

Avoidance fosters anxiety so help your child to take small and achievable steps towards overcoming their fears. Minimise reassurances and checking type questions e.g. ‘Are you alright? Are you sure?’, as this can cause anxious children to think that there is a threat to be fearful of.

Tip #7: Reward Brave and Calm Behaviours

Be dynamic and interesting when you reward your child’s brave behaviours, and do it fairly quickly after the fact. Try to mix your rewards up – praise, affection, token rewards, treats, special time with you – to keep things interesting. When you respond to non-brave behaviour, try to respond neutrally and with little attention

Tip #8: Monitor Your Own Expectations and Fears

You can’t protect your child from experiencing all future fears or uncomfortable emotions. Instead, allow your child to have the opportunity to learn, with your support, how to manage these feelings when they do arise.

Juliet is a warm and compassionate registered psychologist with more than 15 years of experience working with children, adolescents, young adults and families. She has a special interest in working with adolescents experiencing depression, anxiety, self-harm, school refusal, self-esteem issues, family breakdown, behavioural difficulties, HSC and school-stress. Her areas of expertise with children include developmental and behavioural difficulties, emotion regulation, parenting and school issues, family breakup, social skill development and friendship issues.


 

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