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8 Tips For Parents With Anxious Children

8 Tips For Parents With Anxious Children
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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.

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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 July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)
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You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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