This is a partnered post.
Some anxiety is normal in children (and in adults). In fact, if people suffer no anxiety, they may be detached from their surroundings and the people in their lives. Many parents have developed the nightly bedtime ritual of checking under the bed for monsters before their kids go to sleep. If that fear of monsters keeps your child from sleeping or causes him to stay in his room instead of socializing, that may be problematic anxiety and should be addressed.
Kids dealing with excessive anxiety or panic may become irritable, wet the bed, develop rigid behaviors, refuse to be separated from their parents, and be hyper-vigilant, among other behaviors. So, how can parents help their children overcome anxiety? Here are a few of the many ways.
Encourage Children to Face Fear
The body’s response to fear is flight or fight. The heartbeat goes up, the mouth becomes dry and breathing becomes rapid and shallow. The thing is, that the body can only withstand so much of this heightened fear response, and so it begins to calm itself after some time. If someone stays in the situation ( assuming it is not dangerous), his body will begin to relax again.
Children who learn this can soothe themselves. Parents can teach their children to overcome the fear response by beginning gradually with smaller fears and working up to the harder issues for their kids to face.
Help Children Accept Imperfection
Anxiety may come from an unrealistic expectation of being inadequate. We can teach our children that no one will excel in every area and that it is okay if we don’t succeed in every venture. According to a Psychology Today article, our own expectations of our children may have to change as well. We should rejoice in growth as well as celebrating achievement.
Help them be More Positive
Along with teaching them that they will sometimes not succeed, we need to help them see the positive aspects of situations. They may not have hit a home run, but the catch they made in the outfield resulted in an “out” for the other team. Their vocal solo may not have scored the highest mark, but a lady in the audience thanked them for singing her favorite song. Being positive if a skill that can be learned and lessens anxiety because it changes the mindset from expecting “ the worst that could happen.”
Help them Relax
Toddlers often become so exhausted that they can’t sleep. They cry and refuse to be soothed. Relaxation can be a learned skill as well, and even older children may have to be taught to rest.
Parents can schedule a time each day without competitive sports or other achievement-requiring activities when their children are taking a walk, reading, or doing some other relaxing activity.
Mindfulness is being aware of our body and our feelings in situations. Children can be taught to examine a situation realistically and to become aware of their own responses such as heart rate and breathing. They can learn to do exercises to control these things and this helps control their anxiety level. Many of these mindfulness activities for kids are easily learned, and can even be enjoyable.
Anxiety, in adults or children, can be crippling. Of course, medication can sometimes be effective, but it should be a last resort. Children can learn to effectively manage fear and stress. There is much a parent can do to relieve a child’s anxiety.