Practicing Parenting For The Anxiety Epidemic
Parents love to spoil their kids and while that’s lovely, sometimes we should take a moment to take stock and reevaluate the safety and health implications of spoiling our children, especially children with anxiety disorders.
Children with anxiety disorders can be highly frustrating for their parents. Whether they are shy, avoid social situations, or exhibit extreme anxiety around scary situations, often their anxiety will make it hard for them to express themselves – and therefore do their most natural, healthy things. These moments of difficulty make it hard for parents to reach out for help and help often isn’t available for all children.
But if you are worried about your child’s anxiety or concerns, there are some things you can do to prevent stress and stress management from becoming a daily reality:
Be an open door. When your child has an anxiety disorder, it often feels like you can’t help them. Of course there are some basics to all parents, but in the instance of anxiety, those may be difficult to accomplish. Instead of feeling helpless, make sure you are an open door for your child and offer help where you can. Explain your rules, if there are any, but allow them to help themselves. Sometimes even getting help for something like a snack or medical test can lessen the anxiety your child has towards it. Offer quick tips when someone is asking for your help. If you ask, “what do you need?” a lot of kids respond with questions like “What’s the worst thing that ever happened?” “How much did it cost?” “How did it go?” Giving your children a quick tip and answer can help lower their anxiety around a task – like asking for a scratchie just because it’s something that other kids usually do. Share your own anxieties. When you find yourself spending too much time worrying about your child, allow yourself to share how bad you feel. Kids enjoy sharing their feelings with their parents, so it can open up a space for a lot of honest and accurate communication. If your child asks you to spend time with them and you feel like your mind isn’t clear, say that. If you are feeling really anxious about picking your child up from school, say that. Sometimes expressing how you are feeling can help you to reconnect with your child. And while most of the time what your child needs is to find your patience and attention, it is important for your child to understand you are not always there for them. Distract your child. You may find that having them distract you from your fear can be helpful – if that’s your desire. For example, if your child tells you to “take this book and read it over here,” they are doing so because their mind is on something else, not your anxiety. Spend your time doing things that are safe and fun for you and don’t worry about them at all. Make it OK to be sad. Often kids are so focused on their anxiety that they ignore the fact that they are upset when they are. No one likes feeling sad or anxious, but it is important for you to recognize it. If you are spending too much time sad or anxious, encourage your child to feel sadness and anxiety. Share your own feelings – even a little. Most kids are so focused on their parents that they don’t notice how much they are themselves hurting inside. As the days go by, remind yourself of how happy you were yesterday, this weekend, yesterday in school, and today at home. You could be rearing a happy and comfortable child!
If you are thinking about starting any anxiety disorder treatment of your own, let MindShift experts know as soon as possible and they will send you a list of expert therapists in your area.
If you have questions about anxiety, depression, or how to identify a possible mental health disorder, visit www.mentalhealth.org for free and ongoing resources.