A child anxiety story: Joe is an 11-year-old boy who feels nervous before going to school each day. He gets stomach aches when he worries about not making it to school on time. He also gets nervous about other kids poking fun of his lunch and about being called on by the teacher in front of class. Joe’s teachers notice that he doesn’t participate in class and that he has trouble finishing his work on time. After his grades slip, his parents begin to have concerns and speak with a child therapist for help.
Some level of child anxiety and worry is normal for everyone. But, child anxiety that begins to impact an individual’s health, academics and/or social life may need some extra help from a therapist.
There are many strategies to reduce stress and anxiety, and here are just a few:
- Express your encouragement, compassion and patience with your child by reminding them that you support their feelings. Relay to them that you want to know how they are feeling and what they are experiencing.
- Ask open ended questions and encourage your child to express their feelings and thoughts. Focus on the child’s experience, rather than thinking about who to blame or what the consequences of the anxiety are. An example may be, “How does your body feel when you are getting ready for school?” or “What thoughts do you have when we are driving to school?”
- Remain positive and foster your child’s confidence in overcoming their avoidance of the situation. You cannot guarantee that your child will not experience something stressful or bad. But, you can help them feel confident that they will be okay and safe afterward. So, if a child laughs at them or if they forget their line in a play, they will be oble to overcome the setback.
- Don’t allow your child to avoid situations that make them feel anxious. The avoidance can increase their feelings of anxiety. For example, if your child gets nervous at baseball practice, remind them that they will safe and okay. Tell them that you are proud of them for continuing to go to practice even though they are feeling nervous.
- Practice simple deep breathing techniques, belly breathing and body scan techniques daily. These can reset the flight-or-flight response.