Anxiety has been rising in children even before the pandemic and now some studies say it has doubled, which means anxiety is also high in parents, because it is contagious and it's spreading as fast as the virus. While this seems like there is little you can do to stop it, there are things you can do to mitigate the impact and help your child lower the anxiety as well as move through it to do hard things.
Why our efforts to help an anxious child often fail
When our children are anxious, they can’t think as well and they have difficulty doing things, which makes the anxiety worse. It's cyclical. And we know that if they worried less and just talked to that friend, walked into that room, started that project, or just tried to go into their room alone, they could see they could do it on their own. The problem is — telling your child this information rarely works — we don’t calm down because someone tells us to. And while they may need some ideas, they can’t hear them when they feel panicky. So, most of the things we do make things worse. This is because we have to understand the brain under stress and anxiety, know strategies that lower that stress response, and then know how to guide our children through the cycle of competency.
Understanding Anxiety so you can help
The opposite of anxiety is trust — trust in their ability to do things, in the process, and even trust in the difficult emotions they are experiencing. But just telling your child to trust does not work. It has to happen through a process and your relationship. One small way to start is reframing it. Know that your child is not choosing to derail the family outing because he just doesn’t want to go — chances are he has rising anxiety or stress and he does not have the skills to identify his feelings and express them to get his needs met — not necessarily his need to stay home, but his need to feel safe and secure.
Parent Help Program for anxious children
In our parent help program for anxious children, Building Confidence, Trust and Hope: Three things you can do to help an anxious child, we will not only give you the framework to better understand it, but specific strategies and words to help you get through those moments so you can help your child feel safe and secure AND have those family outings.
In the meantime, remember it's real, it's not your fault, and you do have the power to help.
If you are looking for a parent help program for your anxious child,click here to sign up.