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Methods to Help Your Child Cope With Anxiety

Anxiety in children and teens has spiked in recent years. How can you help your child manage anxiety so that he or she can move ahead in school and life? Parents may rush to remove the source of a child’s anxiety if they can. However, that may not always be the best course of action. Children need to develop resilience in order to become successful adults. Helping your child learn to manage his anxiety is a better path. 

Little Wonders Pediatric Therapy in Charlotte, North Carolina, provides occupational and speech therapy to help all children live their best lives and develop the skills needed to live independently. Our therapists work with children with anxiety, providing the support they need to help them learn to manage it. 

Here are important tips to help your anxious child. 

Empathize but form a plan 

You know your child better than anyone else. You’re likely very aware of certain triggers of his or her anxiety, whether it’s fear of failing a math test the next day or an unexpected change in routine. 

When your child has a meltdown when anxiety is triggered — by large dogs, for example —  a first step is acceptance and empathy. Reach out and comfort your child so they feel safe during a scary time. Have them discuss their feelings. 

Empathy is just the first step. It’s crucial to help your child learn to manage their anxiety so they  can function normally as an adult. Realistically, they won’t be able to run away from every anxiety-producing situation in life. 

Create a coping-skills toolkit 

During a calm time, create a list of things your child can do when they’re under stress and feel anxious. For example, if they like art, they may want to use crayons or markers to make a picture of something that makes them happy. 

Make a list of coping strategies with your child of things they can do when they’re feeling fearful. Include the strategies they like and agree to try. Some strategies will be tangible, such as drawing pictures. Others are activities like deep breathing or imagining they’re in a favorite place and describing it. Make a visual cue for each strategy and place all of the materials in a box that your child helps to decorate and label as their coping-skills toolbox

Periodically, go to the toolbox at a calm time and practice some of the skills with your child. Teach deep breathing, for example, while they’re squeezing a stress ball. 

Then, during a stressful time, go with your child to the coping skills toolbox and have them pick one of the activities. Acknowledge the anxiety: “I know you’re anxious about being in a new reading group today. What would make you feel better right now?” They may choose making a clay figure. Substituting one of these calming strategies before your child explodes helps to teach them that they can manage their anxiety.  

Staff at Little Wonders Pediatric Therapy work hand-in-hand with you to help your child learn new ways to cope with fears. 

Take small, desensitizing steps toward anxiety-producing situations

If your child is fearful of large dogs, for instance, and refuses to go outside for fear of meeting one, choose a calm time with her sitting next to you to look at different dog breeds and their positive traits, like protecting children in their household or staying beside a child who is sick. Look for stories of dogs like this and read them with your child. 

Ask someone in the neighborhood with a large, friendly dog to come to the edge of your yard to say hello. Taking these small steps helps your child deal with the anxious feelings while learning to overcome them. 

Help your child develop competence; eschew helicopter parenting

Therapists explain that it’s all right for children to experience some discomfort during childhood. Otherwise, it is difficult for them to develop the resilience they’ll need as an adult to be able to cope, on a job, for example, when everything doesn’t go their way.  

Many parents today do more for their children than did parents in previous generations because they lack time. For example, are you still dressing your child or tying your child’s shoes when they’re capable of tying them themselves? The hurry for the drop-off at daycare may be inhibiting your child’s sense of competence. Having your child clean up after themself and do chores is “a very strong predictor” of success as a young adult. The more a child does for themself, the more they’re likely to develop confidence in their abilities. That makes them less fearful of new or different situations. 

Contact Little Wonders Pediatric Therapy today for help with your anxious child. 

 

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