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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.

More by this author

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 October 13, 2020

12 Things High Self-Esteem People Don’t Do

12 Things High Self-Esteem People Don’t Do

Having high self-esteem is important if you are aiming for personal or professional success. Interestingly, most people will high levels of self-esteem act in similar ways. That’s why it’s often easy to pick them out in a crowd. There’s something about the way they hold themselves and speak, isn’t there?

We all have different hopes, dreams, experiences, and paths, but confidence has its own universal language. This list will present some of the things you won’t find yourself doing if you have high self-esteem.

1. Compare Yourself to Others

People with low self-esteem are constantly comparing their situation to others. On the other hand, people with higher self-esteem show empathy and compassion while also protecting their own sanity. They know how much they can handle and when they can offer a helping hand.

In the age of social media, however, social comparisons are nearly ubiquitous. One study found that “participants who used Facebook most often had poorer trait self-esteem, and this was mediated by greater exposure to upward social comparisons on social media”[1]. Basically, you will feel worse about yourself if you are constantly getting glimpses into lives that you consider to be better than yours.

Try to limit your time on social media. Also, when you do start scrolling, keep in mind that each profile is carefully crafted to create the appearance of a perfect life. Check yourself when you find yourself wishing for greener grass.

2. Be Mean-Spirited

People with low self-esteem bully others. They take pleasure in putting other people down. People with positive self-esteem see no need to down other people, choosing instead to encourage and celebrate successes.

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If you find that you feel the need to put others down, analyze where that’s coming from. If they’ve had success in life, help them feel good about that achievement. They may do the same for you one day.

3. Let Imperfection Ruin Your Day

Perfectionism isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but obsessing over making everything perfect is a sign that you have low self-esteem and can lead to never-ending negative thoughts. This can turn into an inability to solve problems creatively, which will only make self-esteem issues worse. 

Those with high self-esteem disconnect from the results and do their best without expecting perfection.

People with that kind of confidence understand that messing up is a part of life and that each time they aim and miss success, they’ll at least learn something along the way.

If you miss the mark, or if your plan doesn’t work out exactly as you would have liked, take a deep breath and see if you can pivot in order to do better next time.

4. Dwell on Failure

It’s common to hear people dwelling on all the ways things will go wrong. They are positive that their every failure signals an impossible task or an innate inability to do something. People with healthy self-esteem discover why they failed and try again.

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People with higher levels of confidence also tend to adopt a growth mindset[2]. This type of thinking supports the idea that most of your abilities can be improved and altered, as opposed to being fixed.

For example, instead of saying, “I’m just not good at math; that’s why I did bad on the test,” someone with a growth mindset would say, “Math is difficult for me, so I’ll have to put in some more practice to improve next time.”

Next time you experience a failure, check out this video to help you believe in yourself again:

5. Devalue Your Self-Esteem

People with high self-esteem value their own perception of themselves – they understand that they come first and don’t feel guilty about taking care of themselves. They believe charity starts within, and if they don’t believe that, they’ll never have a healthy self-image.

Self-care is often top of the priority list for people with self-esteem. For some ways to practice self-care, check out this article.

6. Try to Please Others

They can’t please all the people all the time, so confident people first focus on doing what will make them feel fulfilled and happy. While they will politely listen to others’ thoughts and advice, they know that their goals and dreams have to be completed on their own terms.

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7. Close Yourself off

Confident people have the ability to be vulnerable. It’s those with poor self-esteem that hide all the best parts of themselves behind an emotional wall. Instead of keeping the real you a secret, be open and honest in all your dealings.

As Brené Brown, author of Daring Greatly, points out, “Vulnerability is about showing up and being seen”[3]. When you embrace each facet of who you are and allow others to see them as well, it will create deeper, more meaningful connections in your life. When that happens, you’ll realize that perfection doesn’t lead to people liking you more.

You can learn more about the power of vulnerability in this TED talk with Brené Brown:

8. Follow and Avoiding Leading

People with low self-esteem don’t believe they can lead, so they end up following others, sometimes into unhealthy situations. Rather than seeking a sense of belonging, people with high self-esteem walk their own paths and create social circles that build them up.

9. Fish for Compliments

If you’re constantly seeking compliments, you’re not confident. People with high self-esteem always do their best (and go out of their way to do good deeds) because it’s what they want to do, not because they’re seeking recognition. If you need to hear compliments, say them to yourself in the mirror.

You can even try some positive affirmations if you need a confidence boost. Check out these affirmations to get started.

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10. Be Lazy

People work harder when they have high self-esteem because they’re not bogged down by doubts and complaints. Those with low self-esteem end up procrastinating and wasting their energy thinking about all the work they have to do rather than rolling up their sleeves and just getting it done.

This may also bounce off perfectionism. Perfectionists often feel intimidated by certain projects if they fear that they won’t be able to complete them perfectly. Tap into your confidence and simply do your best without worrying about a perfect outcome.

11. Shy Away from Risks

When you trust yourself, you’ll be willing to participate more in life. People with low self-esteem are always on the sidelines, waiting for the perfect moment to jump in. Instead of letting life pass you by, have confidence in your success and take the risks necessary to succeed.

12. Gossip

People with low self-esteem are always in other peoples’ business – they’re more interested in what everyone else is doing than themselves. People with high self-esteem are more interested in their own life and stay out of others’ affairs.

Instead of participating in idle gossip, talk about some positive news you heard recently, or that fascinating book you just finished. There’s plenty to talk about beyond what this or that person did wrong in their life.

The Bottom Line

Self-esteem is to success in life. People who maintain a healthy level of self-esteem believe in themselves and push themselves to succeed, while those with low confidence feel a sense of entitlement.

If you need a boost in your self-image and mental health, avoid negative self-talk and the other mistakes of people with low self-esteem. You’ll be amazed at the difference it makes.

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Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Psychology of Popular Media Culture: Social comparison, social media, and self-esteem
[2] Brain Pickings: Fixed vs. Growth: The Two Basic Mindsets That Shape Our Lives
[3] Forbes: Brene Brown: How Vulnerability Can Make Our Lives Better

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