Tips For Parents And Caregivers
Here are things you can do at home to help your child manage his or her anxiety disorder:
- Pay attention to your childs feelings.
- Stay calm when your child becomes anxious about a situation or event.
- Recognize and praise small accomplishments.
- Dont punish mistakes or lack of progress.
- Be flexible, but try to maintain a normal routine.
- Modify expectations during stressful periods.
- Plan for transitions .
Keep in mind that your childs anxiety disorder diagnosis is not a sign of poor parenting. It may add stress to family life, however. It is helpful to build a support network of relatives and friends.
It’s important that you have the same expectations of your anxious child that you would of another child, according to psychologist Lynn Siqueland, PhD. She has specialized in treating children and adolescents with anxiety disorders for more than 15 years. She offers these parenting tips for anxious kids, as well as ways to manage siblings, whose lives are also affected.
When Should I Seek Professional Help For My Anxious Child
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics and our experts, you should consult a psychologist or psychiatrist with experience treating children with an anxiety disorder when the childs behavior or anxiety:
- Disrupts the household and interferes with family activities and life
- When the child gets upset multiple times a day or week
- When the frequency and intensity of the fears escalate .
- When the anxiety leads to significant avoidance behavior. The child continually and consistently makes excuses to avoid school or other situations that may provoke anxiety.
- When the disorder is making it difficult for the child to interact with, make or keep friends.
- When sleep habits are disrupted
- When you begin to see compulsive behaviors and rituals such as repeated hand washing, counting, checking things and when the child refuses or is unable to leave the house without performing these rituals.
- When your child shows a pattern of physical symptoms that are disruptive and detrimental to the child
- When your child experiences panic attacks characterized by heart palpitations, sweating, nausea, hyperventilation.
Changing Your Anxious Childs Inner Thoughts
The truth is
Kids are constantly being told they arent good enough, not smart enough, not calm enough, just plain and simple
What would happen if instead of telling kids they are not enough, we changed the way we saw our children and we changed their inner language?
My new book, The Superkids Activity Guide, is aimed to empower ALL kids to speak up, share their superpowers and learn why they do the things they do so they can advocate for themselves!!
The book has a manifesto that I stand behind 100%. I believe all children should believe these things about themselves and often wish I had believed these things to be true as a child myself.
This is a small excerpt:
Go ahead and say it, so you believe it: I am a SUPERKID.
There, didnt that feel good? Go ahead and say it one more time, just to make sure it sinks in: I am a SUPERKID.
Before you start to think of all the reasons you cant possibly be a superkid, I want to stop you. You see, even the most famous rock stars have doubt and dont believe in themselves every day. This doesnt mean they are any less super. And even superheroes have struggles and pitfalls. That doesnt make them any less super, either. The truth is, despite your struggles, your mistakes, or your bad daysYOU ARE A SUPERKID. The Superkids Manifesto is yours. I want you to own it.
You are unique.You are fierce.
You are a SUPERKID.
You are going to conquer the world and I am going to help you every step of the way
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Helping Your Anxious Child Or Teen
Does any of this sound like your child or teen?
Clinging, crying, and/or tantrums when you separate
Excessive shyness, avoiding social situations
Avoiding situations or places because of fears
Complaints of frequent stomachaches or headaches
Experiencing sudden and frequent panic attacks
If so, your child may be experiencing anxiety. This website can help.
Here, you will find practical strategies and tools to help you manage your child’s anxiety, whether your child is just beginning to show symptoms, or has been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. To begin, continue reading, to find out more about anxietyhow it looks, how it works, and how to recognize if it is problematic. If your child has been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, you may prefer to click immediately on this disorder on the menu.
As a parent of an anxious child, you are not alone.
Anxiety is the most common mental health concern for children and adults. Because anxious children and teens are often quiet and compliant, however, they frequently go unnoticed by their parents and teachers. As a result, many never receive the help they desperately need. Unfortunately, untreated anxiety can lead to other problems later in life, such as depression, missed opportunities in career and relationships, increased substance use, and an overall decreased quality of life.
The good news: Anxiety can be successfully managed!
How To Help Your Child In An Anxious Moment
When your child is in the middle of a very anxious moment, they may feel frightened, agitated or worried about having a panic attack. The important thing to do in the moment is to help them calm down and feel safe.
These strategies can help:
Remember that everyone is different, and that over time you and your child can work together to find the things that work best for them in these moments.
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How Are Anxiety Disorders Diagnosed
Anxiety disorders can be diagnosed by a trained therapist. They talk with you and your child, ask questions, and listen carefully. They’ll ask how and when the child’s anxiety and fears happen most. That helps them diagnose the specific anxiety disorder the child has.
A child or teen with symptoms of anxiety should also have a regular health checkup. This helps make sure no other health problem is causing the symptoms.
Worried Your Child May Have An Anxiety Disorder
Take our 2-minute anxiety quiz to see if he or she may benefit from further diagnosis and treatment.
You cant will away your childs anxiety by telling him not to worry. Hes already worried. This statement implies that the worries are unreasonable or unacceptable. A better approach is: Can you tell me more about your worries?
Its no big deal.
Anxious children know that their worries are a big deal. Their worries can negatively affect peer relationships, family relationships, school performance, and other areas of functioning. Thats a big deal. Try this, instead: I can see that youre feeling very anxious about this. Lets do some deep breathing together.
Youll be fine.
Anyone who has ever experienced excessive anxiety or a panic attack knows that fine is not something that resonates with an anxious mind. When a childs anxious mind is racing, he doesnt feel anything close to fine. Reassure your child with this phrase: I am here to help you.
Theres nothing to be afraid of.
Anxious kids have plenty to fear: Judgment, peer rejection, failure, and the list goes on. You cant stamp out anxiety with a quick phrase. You can help ease the fears by opening the door to a conversation: Lets talk about that together.
You just need to sleep more!
Ill do it.
Its all in your head.
Stop thinking about it.
I dont know what you need.
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Teen Anxiety Doesnt Go Away With Reassurance
So many of the things you might say end up having a paradoxical effect and make the anxiety worse, Bea told The Huffington Post recently. Anxiety can be like quicksand -the more you do to try to defuse the situation immediately, the deeper you sink. By telling people things like stay calm, they can actually increase their sense of panic.
A teenager that has been anxious since childhood has probably constructed an entire lifestyle around their anxieties. They may have trained their family, friends, and teachers to accept it, Bea says. Thats why its more difficult to treat anxiety the longer a child has lived with it. They have likely developed unhealthy coping mechanisms to manage it, and like a malfunctioning machine, they shut down when the system fails them.
How To Help A Teen With Depression
These ways of thinking create anxiety and stress in teens, so what can you as a parent do to help? You can start by paying attention to how you and your family handle failure and mistakes.
Research tells us convincingly that your own relationship with anxiety and uncertaintyâand how you role model this to your childâsignificantly impacts how she sees the world.
When is something good enough? How do you move on to your next task? What does your family say about screw-ups?
Now may be the time to notice and change your own response to mistakes, to sprinkle family conversation with phrases that normalize screw-ups, struggles, and imperfection.
Teens also need to hear that they arenât expected to know everything, and that they canât see into the future.
The goal is NOT to make all good decisions. The goal is to have the problem solving skills needed to adjust from the inevitable bad ones.
Flexibility is key, and this means knowing when to push harder and when to be satisfied with a less-than-perfect result. As you see your teen becoming anxious, look for opportunities to let her know that this IS a time of uncertainty, but you have confidence in her ability to problem solve along the way.
Giving advice about how you would handle things might not be as valuable as instilling a sense of autonomy in your teenâand this may mean backing off the lectures and letting her know that you are there to support her as she makes HER choices.
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Understanding Your Daughter’s Anxiety
Your daughter is conscientious, dependable and eager to please. And you know for sure that she is smart. But when her anxiety ramps up, doesn’t it seem like everything briefly flips to the opposite?
She can become frustratingly uncooperative, to the point that you’re both held hostage by her fears. And she doesn’t seem able to think logically at all.
Perhaps you’re all-too-familiar with some of the behaviours on this list the typical ways that anxiety can show up. Your daughter may:
- pester you with questions about upcoming events
- show perplexing indecisiveness over tasks as simple as choosing what to wear
- be obsessively diligent about her schoolwork, becoming completely undone when an assignment is deemed too hard or is not completed perfectly
- fiercely insist on routines or rituals that magically protect her or help her feel in control of her world
- lash out at you over things that seem inconsequential to relieve her pent-up stress
- completely lose it when theres an unexpected change of plans
- keep you in her bedroom, soothing her worries, till long after she should be asleep
- become hysterical over intimidating situations, like starting a new school year or preparing for exams.
Why does anxiety have such a powerful hold on your daughter? And given her above-average intelligence, why is it so difficult to convince her that her fears just arent rational?
How Can I Help My Child
If your child has an anxiety disorder, here are some ways you can help:
- Find a trained therapist and take your child to all the therapy appointments.
- Talk often with the therapist, and ask how you can best help your child.
- Help your child face fears. Ask the therapist how you can help your child practice at home. Praise your child for efforts to cope with fears and worry.
- Help kids talk about feelings. Listen, and let them know you understand, love, and accept them. A caring relationship with you helps your child build inner strengths.
- Encourage your child to take small steps forward. Don’t let your child give up or avoid what they’re afraid of. Help them take small positive steps forward.
- Be patient. It takes a while for therapy to work and for kids to feel better.
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When To Seek Professional Help
Your own patience and know-how can go a long way toward helping your child with separation anxiety disorder. But some kids with separation anxiety disorder may need professional intervention. To decide if you need to seek help for your child, look for red flags, or extreme symptoms that go beyond milder warning signs. These include:
- Age-inappropriate clinginess or tantrums.
Hotlines and support
In Canada, call the Parent Helpline at 1-888-603-9100 or visit Anxiety Canada for links to services in different provinces.
Therapies For Anxiety Disorder
Cognitive behavioral therapy is often described as the gold standard therapy for anxiety disorders, CBT is a short-term therapy whose core principle is that what we think, how we feel, and how we behave are all closely connected and together strongly influence well-being. During therapy sessions, children gradually grasp that what they think and do affects how they feel. They also learn how to challenge and question the validity of negative thoughts and replace them with positive ones. CBT helps kids understand that avoiding their fear makes the fear stronger while facing the fear will make the child stronger. The therapist helps the child practice techniques to help them face their worries and tolerate the associated anxiety and builds up their confidence through praise and through their accomplishments.
Through exposure to anxiety-producing situations, the child will be better able to tolerate anxiety-provoking situations and the associated worries. For CBT to be successful, the child must be willing to actively and consistently participate in the therapy and do the required exercises outside of sessions. For some children, especially young children, that can be challenging so its really important that the child and the therapist have a strong relationship.
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Deal With Your Anxiety Issues
The best way to help your daughter overcome her anxiety is to deal with your anxiety. You can do this by learning as much as you can about anxiety disorder using self-help materials, such as those in the Recovery Support area of our website.
Then, work with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist to help you discover and successfully address the underlying factors that are causing issues with your anxiety.
Most often, children learn their anxious behaviors from their parents, either from one or both. When parents address their anxious behaviors, they can help their children address theirs, too.
Since children often are greatly influenced by their parents behavior, they are more eager to make healthy change when they see their parents exhibit healthy behavior. Children also learn faster when parents model healthy behavior.