If you have an anxious child (like I do), use these 5 ways to help an anxious child and you will be surprised at how much these basic ideas will alleviate many of their worries. I only wish I had learned about them when my kids were even younger.
It’s easy to forget that little kids have all the worries and anxieties that we have and many times, to the same extreme. They just worry about different things. Your first grader is JUST AS worried about her spelling test on Friday as you are about making the mortgage payment this month. Are the consequences different? Yes! Are the implications different? Yes! Is the feeling of dread, worry and anxiety the same? Yep!
My mom, who is full of awesome advice and parenting knowledge, told me that when my sisters and I were young, she never poo-poo’d our fears. Because what we felt at that moment was as legitimate and real as any fears she had in her life at that same moment. Our problems were just different at a young age.
So with both of my girls, I try to follow this same example. And in doing so, I have learned that by treating their problems as real, I can much more easily see when anxiety starts to set in.
Of course, some children are more anxious than others…just like adults! My younger daughter, even at 3, is MUCH more a worrier than my older one, but I’ve seen both of them distraught with anxiety.
The great thing is that these 5 tips help any child on that worry spectrum!
1.Listen To Your Child – Really Listen – You know how sometimes you are worried about something and you just want your husband or best friend to hear you out and empathize? You are not even looking for a solution. Sometimes the cathartic nature of just getting all that fear and worry and garbage out of your head and into the open is all you need. Kids are the same too.
Listen to them when they are ready to talk. If the blinking battery light on the smoke alarm is keeping them up all night (don’t laugh because this was a legitimate worry for my child), sit down on the edge of the bed with them and let them tell you all about it.
2. Don’t Assume What Will Worry Your Child – I have to stop myself when I want to start asking my kids if they are worried about…making new friends at school, learning how to perfect their cartwheel in gymnastics, finding their place in the cafeteria, INSERT WORRY HERE! Because these may not be the things they are worried about at all.
Don’t place undue stress on your kids. Instead, focus on what they share with you because no matter how silly it seems, this is what’s going to keep them up at night.
3. Tell Your Kids You Will Worry About It – My mom always told me (and still does) that there is no reason for me to stay up all night worrying about something because God’s up anyway. What that means is sometimes we just need a break from worrying….give it to God and let him take your worry, even if for just a while. This concept can be hard for kids though so I tell my girls that they can take a break from worrying and I will do it for them. They can hand it over so to say. This is really important at bedtime because worries and fears can get the best of everyone. Tell your kids you can talk about it tomorrow but for tonight, it’s your responsibility.
4. Jonathan James and The What If Monster – I LOVE a good book and I love it even more when it addresses a kid-problem in perfect kid-language. I came upon this awesome Usborne book called Jonathan James and The What If Monster. If you don’t have one, snatch one up! The whole premise is how Jonathan James wants to try new things, meet new people, make new friends. But that pesky What If Monster fills his head with worry and doubt. Until finally, Jonathan James says but What If You are Wrong? My 3 and 6 year old immediately identified with this book and it’s my younger daughter’s favorite.
5. Respect Your Child’s Fears But Give Them The Confidence To Face Them – Regardless of how silly my girls’ worry seems to me, I always show them that I respect their worries and in my mind, they are 100% legitimate. What I don’t do is reinforce them and make them feel they are not bigger than their fears. Instead I validate their fears and give them the tools they need.
So when my daughter was worried about the smoke alarm, we talked about how smoke alarms keep us safe and how they need batteries in them to do their job. We discussed (in great depth) the details of what would happen if the alarm sounded and firefighters had to come to the house. We talked about how the firefighters would be responding to the call we were able to make BECAUSE of the alarm.
And we did this OVER AND OVER for weeks. Until it clicked.
Because one thing I will say I’ve learned about worry and anxiety in my kids is this – Knowledge Is Power! Children have a way of letting a worry snowball so if you can help your kids understand their fears and use these 5 ways to help an anxious child, you will be preparing your child for a lifetime of addressing their fears.
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