Any parent knows the difficulties that arise when trying to communicate with your child, but frequently these challenges are only amplified when your offspring suffers from anxiety. You want to help your children as much as you can, but you also don’t want to say the wrong thing.
If you are looking for better ways to speak with your son or daughter, read on for four tips for communicating with your anxious child.
1. Speak with your child about anxiety.
The worst thing you can do is to ignore or avoid any mention of anxiety. Not only is this incredibly unproductive, but it will also make your child feel as though there is something inherently wrong with him or her. Instead, you want to speak with your child about anxiety and provide her with accurate information.
Teach your child that anxiety is a prevalent and normal experience or feeling, and that it can be handled. This will help her feel more comfortable in her skin and more motivated to work through her troubles.
The best way to bring up the topic is to recount a recent scenario when you witnessed anxiety in your child. Describe to your child things you were anxious about when you were her age, before inquiring whether she has any comparable concerns or worries. This will help make your child feel comfortable with the concept of sharing her feelings.
When speaking with your child, it is essential that you recognize that her anxieties are genuine but also explain that there are coping mechanisms you can explore together.
2. Refrain from asking leading questions.
While you want to do everything you can to assist your child in talking about his or her feelings, you don’t want to do that by asking leading questions as that can often feed the cycle of anxiety. For example, rather than saying “Are you anxious about (an upcoming event)?” Instead ask, a more open-ended question such as “How do you feel about (the upcoming event)?”
This slight change in the question ensures that you aren’t projecting your fears into your child and are, instead, giving him room to explore his own feelings.
3. Don’t succumb to excessive reassurance.
It is natural for all children to seek advice and reassurance from their parents — particularly if they have questions about the world or are facing challenging scenarios. However, if your child suffers from anxiety, she may frequently be asking you for reassurance about the same thing over and over again.
As a parent, you want to reassure your child and help her feel better, but at a particular stage, excessive reassurance can start to hurt her, not help. Apart from the fact that excessive reassurance can be exhausting for you as the parent, it may also feed your child’s anxiety. Remember that reassurance is meant for temporary relief; it is not a long-term solution.
Instead of continually giving your child excessive reassurance, you need to be strong (no matter how hard it is) and stop doing it. Once your child stops relying on your constant reassurance, she will start to learn to deal with the anxiety on her own leading to a sense of self-sufficiency and capability.
4. Teach your child to take deep breaths.
No matter whether your child suffers from anxiety or not, learning how to take deep breaths properly is a valuable skill for every human being. Unfortunately, many people don’t know how to take deep, calming breaths.
To help your child take a deep breath, when he is calm, teach him that his breath should go all the way down to his belly and that he should spend a few seconds with the inhale before they exhale.
You can even use visuals to help him understand. For younger children, practice smelling flowers and other lovely scents or have them blow out a few candles. Then next time he gets anxious, use these visual cues (hold up your fingers) and have him recreate the action.
Having a child with anxiety can be challenging and difficult to navigate. But by considering the above advice, you should be able to help assuage your child’s fears, and ensure he or she is able to manage his or her bouts of anxiety.
How do you talk to your anxious child? Do you have any strategies to share with the rest of this community? What parenting hurdles are you currently facing? Let us know in the comments below!
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Author Bio: Dr. Gemma Gladstone is an endorsed clinical psychologist and certified schema therapist, supervisor and trainer. Along with Justine Corry, she is co-director of the Good Mood Clinic in Sydney and has 24 years of experience within mental health
Photo by Sai De Silva on Unsplash
The opinions and views expressed in this guest blog do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in this article or linked to herein.