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8 Tips For Parents With Anxious Children

8 Tips For Parents With Anxious Children

Trying to raise a child in this hectic world is no easy task, and even the best of parents can get frustrated when faced with the unique challenges it presents. To further complicate things, it is quite common for children to experience bouts of low self-esteem, doubt, worry and even intense anxiety when faced with different challenges that life throws at them.

Sometimes, even things that seem fairly small and insignificant to the parent can trigger anxiety in a child, which can negatively affect different aspects of their life – e.g. anything form not being able to socialize properly with other kids or getting bad grades, to not eating right and losing sleep.

There is a right and a wrong way to deal with these types of situations, and depending on what you do, your child may slowly get better or have their anxieties take an even greater hold on them. If your child suffers from anxiety, be sure to try out these proven approaches.

1. Make them feel safe instead of telling them that everything is fine

Telling someone that things are fine and that everything’s going to be OK may very well cause them to feel even more anxious about the whole issue, and probably a little irritated by your half-hearted attempts to calm them down. But you don’t have to use any words at all, just let your actions speak.

If you know the root of your child’s problem, then take steps to resolve the issue – e.g. if cyber-bullying is a concern, you can give your child advice and help them tighten up their privacy and security settings on social media.

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2. Perform some breathing exercises with them when you sense anxiety coming on

Anxiety attacks can creep up on you and build up momentum as the mind focuses more and more on worries, and the heart rate starts skyrocketing. It’s easy to get overexcited and have that uneasy feeling of dread overcome you when your entire body is on high alert.

The simplest, and one of the most effective ways of bringing your mind down from DEFCON 1 to a more relaxed state, is through slow breathing exercises.

Even just five minutes of slow breathing can calm the mind enough for the logical part of the brain to take over.

3. Try to sympathize with your child and understand where they are coming from

It’s not always easy to understand why another person finds something upsetting or why someone gets stressed out over seemingly easy to fix things, particularly if there is a big age difference between you and said person.

However, instead of just blurting out, “I don’t understand why you are getting so upset”, you can take a moment to try and put yourself in the child’s shoes. Take a very stressful moment from your own life and imagine being in that state of fear.

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Only once you have adopted the right frame of mind should you approach your child and let them know that you understand that they are afraid, and that it is perfectly fine to feel that way from time to time.

4. Engage their imagination and take their mind off their worries for a moment

Letting your child know that it is safe to share how they feel and helping them calm down through breathing exercises is a good start, but it is important to take their mind away from the issue that is causing their anxiety if you want to break the self-perpetuating cycle of worry.

As long as they are focused on that single problem, they won’t be able to think rationally. Have your child accompany you on a mental journey to an interesting and relaxing location. Let him or her tell you about their ideal relaxing environment in some detail, and focus on the things that make the child feel safe and at ease – e.g. snow, ponies, sunshine, etc.

5. Explain the nature of anxiety and fear to your child from a scientific point of view

Children are incredibly receptive to logical explanations, and they love to learn about how things work. Of course, you need to learn a little bit about the psychological and biochemical side of things in order to effectively explain anxiety to your child.

It’s a good idea to get acquainted with how things look like from the perspective of a person with anxiety so that you can relate better, but focus on the science to make it seem less mysterious and to help them understand more clearly.

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6. Let your child know that you will be there for him or her when they need help

Now, anxiety doesn’t simply go away after you’ve calmed your child down and talked to them a couple of times – it will keep coming back when triggered by stressful events. This is why it is important to create an atmosphere of trust.

Your child has to know that he or she can talk to you about this sort of thing without you dismissing them, making light of their problems or getting angry because you don’t know how to help them.

Just knowing that they have someone they can talk to, someone that can help them push through anything without being overbearing or judgmental, will make a huge difference in how a child deals with their problems.

7. Teach your child to use logic

While having a shoulder to cry on is a great safety net, a child also needs to be able to take control of their emotions all on his or her own. There will be times when they might use breathing and imagination, as mentioned above, to weather the emotional storm, but it is also very important to have a way of dealing with anxiety as soon as you sense it rearing its ugly head.

The logical approach works well once a child has calmed down a bit using various methods, and it basically comes down to throwing intelligent retorts in the face of your negative inner voice.

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A negative thought may pass your mind, as something like, “All the other kids are cooler than me and don’t know how to talk to them”, would be met with, “Even the most popular kids make mistakes all the time, and even have people laugh at them, but everyone forgets about it quite soon”, and, “Just the other day I told a joke and a bunch of kids laughed and said I was funny, and I talked to Joanne and Tim about swimming in the ocean.”

8. Take the child out of his or her comfort zone gradually

If you only try to deal with anxiety whenever the child is having a panic attack, you’ll help them momentarily, but you won’t resolve the underlying issues or make any serious progress. Living with anxiety is like being in a constant state of dread and sadness, with emotional spikes that can be triggered by events, memories or words.

You need to find these triggers and learn what and why certain things make the child anxious. It is usually the fear of failure, fear of being mocked, fear of the unknown, and the perceived inability to change one’s circumstances all mixed into an ugly cocktail that causes a child a lot of problems.

When the child slowly starts facing their fears and learning to operate in situations they find uncomfortable, some of those fears will start to go away. Help your child get out of their comfort zone and develop the skills, coping mechanisms and mental tools that will allow them to perform under stress, and gradually stop feeling anxious about things that once used to make them freeze and hyperventilate.

These tactics have been proven to work quite well for helping children effectively deal with anxiety, both when it comes to calming them down when sensing an oncoming panic attack, and slowly getting rid of such feelings over time.

You’ll need to be patient and understanding, but you can make great progress with this kind of approach.

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Ivan Dimitrijevic

Ivan is the CEO and founder of a digital marketing company. He has years of experiences in team management, entrepreneurship and productivity.

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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