When Anxiety Gets in the Way of A Joyful Childhood

Does your child experience excessive fear and anxieties? Anxiety is the most common mental health issue affecting both children and adults. Anxious children work hard to avoid frightening situations, and a parent’s attempts at reassurance seem to give them no relief.

Anxiety disorders are characterized as extreme feelings of panic, fear, worry, or irrational discomfort in everyday situations. Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress; however when the stress becomes overbearing and irrational, it can become disabling and interfere with every day functioning.

Anxiety and its related symptoms can significantly impact a child’s quality of life, such as refusal to go to school, refusal to go to bed at night, or avoidance of certain people and places.

A parent’s reaction often serves as a model for children, and parents can help children see that things aren’t as scary as their anxious thoughts are making them feel. Tips for helping an anxious child include:

  • Help kids see how their thoughts are affecting their feelings and behavior
  • Encourage children to challenge their fearful thoughts and learn the coping skills they need to face their fears
  • Role-play or act out possible ways your child could handle an anxious situation. Verbalizing it makes kids more confident and more likely to try the strategy when your child is alone.
  • Help your child break down “big” anxiety-provoking tasks into smaller, less daunting steps that he or she can accomplish
  • Build your child’s strengths by praising him for facing challenges or trying something new
  • Avoid “taking over” or “just doing it” for your child when his anxiousness is triggered. While this might help your child feel better at that moment, the message it may send your child is that you don’t believe your child can do it.

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    Try to keep your fears to yourself so that you don’t inadvertently reinforce your child’s fears.

    If you feel your child is experiencing an excessive amount of anxiety that is interfering in their day-to-day functioning, you may want to consider consulting with a therapist.

    NOTE: This information should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of a mental health condition. Call 612-871-1454 to learn more about Washburn Center’s mental health services for children