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9 Tips For Helping Your Child Manage Anxiety

9 Tips For Helping Your Child Manage Anxiety

Parents want nothing more than to see childhood remain a time of carefree wonder and joy for their children, an age of innocence wherein the troubles of the wider world are kept at a safe distance by caring adult oversight.

As such, the parents who have anxious children are faced with a difficult dilemma: How do they protect their children from the multitude of relatively “normal” activities (e.g. going to school, socializing with friends) that provoke anxiety and fear while also ensuring that they experience life fully and develop properly? How do they help their child manage anxiety?

There are no easy answers to the above question. Psychologist Tali Shenfield, PhD suggests that parents first evaluate the level of child’s anxiety with a free child anxiety screening test and then, depending on test results, use the following anxiety management strategies:

1. An “empathy first” approach

When most parents hear their child expressing irrational fears, their first response is to assure their child that, logically, there is nothing to worry about. While this act is well-intentioned, it’s usually ineffective; the brain of any anxious individual – young or old – is too engaged in the “fight or flight” response (wherein activity in the prefrontal cortex, the “logical” part of the brain, is suppressed) to properly process new information.

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What an anxious child therefore really needs is a parent who simply feels with him- one who pauses with him, joins him in taking a few deep breaths, and then validates his emotions as being acceptable.

Once you have empathized with your child and he has visibly calmed down, then and only then should you look for possible solutions. Do this while engaging your child: Ask him what he thinks would help him to feel better and overcome his fears.

2. Avoid making your child feel like a problem to be fixed

Children – even children without chronic anxiety – frequently struggle with fears of being “different” from their peers or unacceptable to their parents. If your child feels like his anxiety means something is “wrong” with him, his issues with worry will only increase as he will be plagued by constant self-doubt.

To prevent the above from happening, avoid labelling your child (i.e. don’t call him an “anxious person” or a “worrier”); instead, explain to him fear’s historically beneficial role in protecting us from harm (i.e. our instincts once helped us to avoid predators in the wild).

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Ideally, you should teach your child to see worry like a tool: It’s useful in some situations, but in others, our brains are simply reacting to “false alarms” due to instinct. Tell your child that it’s possible to learn a few simple methods for recognizing these false alarms and for dealing with them effectively.

3. Consider using play to help your child understand his anxiety

Role playing exercises, such as having your child create a character which embodies his worry, can help your child learn how to dismantle his anxieties. Use a toy (such as a doll or stuffed animal) to represent the character your child creates, then you and your child can sit together and practice talking the character out of his misplaced fears. Make sure that every time the character succeeds in overcoming his anxiety during the stories created for him, he ends up with a “happy ending” as a result.

4. Teach your child how to centre himself in reality

Our fears have a way of distorting reality, making situations appear much scarier than they actually are. To help your child overcome the mind’s innate tendency to exaggerate objects of worry, teach him to:

  1. Recognize worried thoughts as they happen. Visualization is useful here: Tell your child to imagine thoughts floating above his head in “thought bubbles,” then ask him to practice catching the fearful thoughts as they pop up.
  1. Deconstruct the thoughts he catches using factual evidence. Emphasize to your child that feelings are not facts. When faced with a worry, tell your child that he should weigh up factual evidence for and against what his mind is telling him (for example, if he fears failing a test, he should review the many times he has passed tests over the years and remind himself that he has studied thoroughly, making failure unlikely).
  1. Debate with his thoughts (if necessary). Using the facts he has just gathered, you child can debate with the worried thoughts his mind is producing until he eventually wins and overcomes them.

5. Allow your child to worry

The more your child feels as though he should be able to simply shove his worries away, the more he will believe he is somehow failing when he cannot. You should therefore avoid saying things like, “There’s no reason to be afraid” and instead encourage your child to express his worries.

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Creating a “worry diary” is an excellent strategy for getting your child to vent what’s bothering him; have him spend 15 minutes a day writing down any worry that is weighing on him – no matter how small – and allow him to share those worries with you if he wishes. At the end of the 15 minutes, have him literally close the book on his worries and set them aside.

6. Affirm the importance of remaining in the present moment

Like anxious adults, anxious children spend a lot of time preoccupied with “what ifs.” Instruct your child to try to catch his “what if” thoughts and replace them with “what is” thoughts. For example, if he’s thinking, “What if my new friend stops liking me?” he should pause, focus on nothing but his breath for a few moments, then look around and take in “what is”: The sun shining as he waits for the bus, the sound of the birds in the trees, the feeling of the warm air.

Intentionally returning one’s focus to the present in this way (by focusing on sensory perceptions) is a form of Mindfulness, a popular therapeutic practice which has been repeatedly shown to lessen anxiety.

7. Help your child take “baby steps” in order to overcome fearful situations

It is usually impossible – and always unhelpful – for an anxious individual to avoid everything that is causing him anxiety. Instead, your child should try the “ladder” approach: Overcoming fearful situations by working up to them in a succession of small steps.

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If your child is afraid of dogs, for instance, have him start by observing a familiar dog (one that belongs to a friend, for example) from a distance, then have him walk closer to the dog while it’s safely leashed, then have him try to pet the dog while another person is still holding the leash, and then finally, let him interact with the dog briefly while it’s off its leash. If this process is repeated a few times with a few different friendly dogs, your child will likely overcome his terror.

8. Have your child create a “calm down” checklist

Ask your child to write down a series of steps to take when he needs to calm down (e.g. pause, breathe deeply, count to ten, evaluate the facts of the situation, etc.), so that he has something clear to refer to when he begins to feel panicky and confused. Make sure that your child carries a copy of this checklist with him until he memorizes the steps.

9. Don’t blame yourself for your child’s anxiety

Many parents of anxious children wonder if they have somehow “caused” their child to become excessively fearful, but this is usually not the case: Genetics and environmental factors over which parents have limited control (bullying at school, for example, or a traumatic accident) often lie at the root of childhood anxiety – not “bad parenting.”

It’s important to avoid blaming yourself for your child’s anxiety; the more you do so, the more emotional you will become about the situation and the less able you will be to help your child stay calm (your own worry will eventually cause you to become reactive, which will affirm your child’s idea that there is something to be afraid of). Instead, see yourself as your child’s ally, a member of his team as he fights against anxiety.

Remember, being compassionate to yourself, as well as to your child, is essential when creating a calm, loving, and healthy home for your whole family. If you find yourself struggling to cope with your child’s anxiety, don’t go it alone – seek the aid of friends, family members, and if necessary, a mental health professional. With the right support, you and your child can triumph over irrational fears and live full, happy lives.

Featured photo credit: Albumarium via albumarium.com

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Published on June 24, 2020

How to Be a Successful And Happy Stay at Home Mom

How to Be a Successful And Happy Stay at Home Mom

I can’t think of a more rewarding job, nor a more challenging one than being a Stay-at-Home-Mom (SAHM)! There is no shortage of opinion, however, as to the pros and cons of going on active duty until your kid/s turns 18 and flies off to college.

When you choose a career such as this, you’re in it for the long haul. But by the end of your journey, you’ll be decorated with every possible medal of honor. And may I say, indisputably deserved.

Think about it: a SAHM is a queen. She has one of the most important jobs of all—managing the castle, all that it entails, and its inhabitants.

For most of you, your home is your castle. It is where your most valuable possessions reside—your loved ones, your pets, your memories, and the special items you’ve collected over the years. It is where you feel comfortable, uninhibited, and free to be yourself. It is where you dine, sleep, and relax. It is everything!

Being the queen of your castle is like being the president. What other position carries as much clout other than being the president?

Taking care of that castle and its occupants is no easy task; it is a highly-ranked position that deserves every available merit.

Yes, staying at home can be a big decision, especially if you have a career and have been used to praise, socialization, and a regular paycheck. You might even think that if you decide to stay home, it is a “step down,” a demotion of sorts. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Why Being a Stay-at-Home Mom Is an Important Career

Being a SAHM requires wearing a litany of hats. You’re a full-time babysitter, a Lyft driver without tips or 5-star ratings, a nurse, a chef, a behavioral therapist, and most importantly, a teacher.

Teachable moments abound. You get to teach your children all the important things you want them to learn. Sure, there are no days off or summer vacations in store for decades, depending on the age of your little one/s, but imagine what amazing human beings you are helping to create!

Being stellar SAHMs are big shoes to fill. Not just anyone is up to the task; not everyone has the patience or the stamina it requires. Think triathlon here, but more—much more.

To put it simply, being a SAHM is one of the most important careers in the world. Let’s take a look at why this is so.

1. Your Child Is Always With Someone Who Loves Them

When your children are home with you, they are loved 24/7. They are happy and comforted.

In a daycare facility, the most important person in your life will be with someone who is just doing their job. They’re there for the paycheck, not because they love your child.

As you know, there are good and bad employees. You won’t necessarily know if your child is with a great employee or with one who is half paying attention to one of the most highly-treasured people in your life.

2. You Don’t Have to Deal With Office Stress and Deadlines

Working outside of your castle generally demands that you be present wherever it is you work—a hospital, a warehouse, a car dealership, an office, etc.,—when they want you to be there.

There are petty fights, nasty gossip, stressful projects, bad bosses, jealous co-workers, etc. You might often find yourself looking at the clock and waiting for the weekend.

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If you’re a SAHM, you make the rules! That alone should cause you great joy.

3. You Get to Witness Each of Your Child’s Milestones Firsthand

Think about how many milestones working moms miss. As a SAHM, you get to be there. You get to take those pictures, those videos, and see your little one grow up—in person, not via Nanny Cam! And if you’re children are middle-school-age and older, you get to keep an eye on them when they get home from school.

In an article in the American Journal of Nursing Science, it states that:[1]

“Economic and social pressures are forcing more parents into the workplace at a time when children appear to most need adult guidance and supervision. These children, in turn, face a growing number of problems such as physical and sexual abuse, crime and delinquency, depression and suicide, drug and alcohol abuse, emotional and behavioral problems, learning difficulties, school attendance problems, domestic violence, pregnancy, abortion, and venereal disease.

Many “latchkey” children experience stressful and even dangerous situations without ready access to adult guidance and support. It is estimated that as many as 10 million children care for themselves before or after school. Many latchkey kids begin their self-care responsibilities at about 8 years of age.”

4. Your Child Gets to Grow Up in Their Castle With a Queen Who Loves Them

When you’re home with your child, you provide love and comfort. That makes for a happy child and eventually, a happy adult. True, some adults were raised with their queen and don’t fare well, but in those rare cases, there are other factors involved, too numerous to list here.

In general, children do better when they know they are loved and cared for. And for children, the presence that would create stability and warm-fuzzy feelings is Mom!

5. Your Child Will Grow Up Feeling Happy, Safe, and Secure

Personally, I grew up with a SAHM. My mom was always around. We knew we could count on her for anything. She’d keep the house clean, cook great meals, and take us swimming in the summers.

I have very happy memories. I always felt secure and loved. And when my dad would get home after work, the family was complete. Fun times! If you are a good, caring mom, the best gift you can give your children is YOU!

Creating happy children is one of the biggest successes you can experience.

6. Your Child’s School Performance Will Improve

Research shows that there are excellent benefits to children staying at home, such as an increase in school performance. Those benefits extend way beyond the early years of that child’s life.

Did you know that homeschoolers generally score 15 to 30% points above public school students on a standardized test?

In the article, Does Being a Stay at Home Home Benefit Your Kids?, it states:[2]

“A British study in the ‘Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health’ reported that children of stay-at home-mothers are more likely to participate in organized sports than those whose mothers worked, possibly because their mothers had more time to take them to sports practices.

Other studies have found that children of stay-at-home moms were exposed to fewer germs and suffered from fewer illnesses. In addition, stay-at-home moms can have more time to prepare healthier foods and they rely less on convenience foods, partially for financial reasons.”

It’s Normal to Feel Iffy at First

Even after having read the six above-mentioned amazing reasons to stay at home, you might still feel iffy about it. Not because you don’t love your children but because you feel you will lose yourself—your identity.

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It’s understandable to feel that way. Shifting your perspective is key here. Staying at home doesn’t have to go hand-in-hand with losing your identity. You simply add to it; it’s another layer, another facet of who you are.

In the beginning, you may need to make some adjustments, but isn’t life, in general, an adjustment? Things are happening every day that oblige us to change course and go with the flow.

How to Be a Successful Stay-at-Home Mom

If you decide, that yes, you are going to stay home with your child but aren’t sure how to navigate the new waters without completely losing yourself, allow me to offer you some ideas that will make your experience an exceptionally happy one.

By following through with the suggestions below, you will feel successful, happy, and ready to tackle anything that comes your way.

Here are some tips on how to be a successful stay-at-home mom:

1. Wake Up Early!

Some SAHMs complain that they don’t have enough time for themselves. Valid point. Try getting up early, before the kids do.[3] This is the first thing that you should keep in mind if you want to be a successful stay-at-home mom.

Being up before everyone else offers you alone time to get some personal things done. The house is quiet and peaceful—the perfect setting to do what you need to do. That could be taking an uninterrupted warm shower, reading passages from your favorite book, having a cup of coffee while streaming one of your favorite shows or movies, writing emails, etc.

Waking up early offers you many opportunities to do what you need to do so that you don’t feel as though you’re missing out.

2. Dress Up!

No, I don’t mean dress up like you’re going out dancing, but you don’t have to be in your pajamas or sweats all day, either. How you dress makes a difference in your mood—on how you feel. So, dress casually but nicely.

In an article by Corina, How to be a Stylish Stay at Home Mom Without Compromising Comfort, she writes, “You don’t need a ton of clothes! Stick with what fits you well and makes you feel pretty without much fuss.”[4]

You can be at home and still dress to impress. You will feel so much better about yourself.

3. Exercise and Have Fun With Your Kids!

Taking care of your little ones doesn’t mean you give up on yourself. Take some time during the day to exercise. It will keep you strong, toned, and happy.

Have the children join you, and make it amusing by playing some fun workout music. They’ll use up a lot of energy and enjoy the time with you simultaneously.

Here’s an example of a mom who’s having a lot of fun with her kids as well as entertaining her audience. Watch Sophie Ellis-Bextor on YouTube.[5]

What a fun thing to do with your kids!

4. Schedule Weekly Outings!

To add excitement to your week, plan a weekly outing to the zoo, the botanical gardens, the library, the park, etc.

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Of course, at this point, the outings depend on personal safety and each state’s guidelines, so you’ll have to check on that. But bike rides around the neighborhood and picnics will work just as well.

If it’s too difficult to get out for whatever reason, there are many fun things you can do at home, pandemic or not. You can schedule a Stay At Home FUN DAY! Making a fun environment for your children is important in being a successful stay-at-home mom.

In an article by Andrea Browne Taylor, 16 Free or Cheap Things to Do With Your Kids During the COVID-19 Pandemic, she lists many activities to do with your kids.[6] Even I want to do these!

5. Establish a Break

During the day, it’s important to set aside some time to do something quiet; perhaps set aside 20-30 minutes to read, color, etc.

During this break, each person can do something they personally enjoy. Encourage your kids to get creative. Research shows that creative activities, such as art, are wonderful for children.

In her article, Why Art and Creativity are Important, Paula Bernstein states,[7]

“Fostering creativity won’t just increase your child’s chances of becoming the next Picasso. You’re also helping him develop mentally, socially, and emotionally, says Ecklund-Flores.”

And for you, pick up that hobby you put on the back burner. Whether it is painting, crocheting, knitting, writing, whatever, use that time to get some creative YOU time in! You are going to feel so much happier and accomplished afterward.

6. Make Your Castle a Beautiful Living Space!

Decorate your home in a way that is soothing to you. Choose the colors, the decor, the furniture, the pictures, the artwork, the plants, etc. that make you feel at peace in your own castle.

Play music that is both calming and energizing. Living in a space you love and find comforting makes all the difference in the world. If you create a happy environment, you’ll feel happier, and so will your children.

For ways to make your home a happier place, check out Olivia Heath’s article, 8 ways to make your home a happier place.[8]

7. Set Up a Routine!

Most people respond well to a routine. For instance, from 8 – 9, breakfast and cartoons; from 9 – 12. chores and homework; from 12 – 1:00 p.m., lunch. After that, nap time, if appropriate, or personal time.

The routine, of course, will be based on the age of your children and your own personal views. According to a Skilled at Life article:

Setting up a routine “creates structure in our lives. a daily routine provides structure and a logical sequence in our lives. It provides the framework within which we live our lives and conduct our daily activities. Soon we become familiar and comfortable with what we have to do each day. It allows us to experience a flow to our day.”((Skilled at Life: 18 Reasons Why a Daily Routine Is So Important))

As a SAHM, you’ll benefit from the routine and take comfort in knowing what to expect. This is the time for you to incorporate anything into your daily routine that makes you feel relaxed, happy, and stress-free.

8. Meet Up With Other SAHMs

Meeting up with other SAHMs will provide you with support. Additionally, the kids get to socialize with other children and you with other like-minded moms.

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Not working outside the home sometimes can feel isolating, so talking to other adults is a nice treat. Below, I included a link to help you find just the group for you! Check it out.

9. Hire a Babysitter!

Sometimes you might like to go out with friends, get pampered at a spa, or what-have-you. A babysitter or a trusted family member can help with that.

These little breaks can be the fuel you need to keep going. It’s like getting a mini-vacation. It’s revitalizing. Once you get home from your spa treatment or the movie you saw with your friends, you will have renewed energy. You can now refocus on your castle tasks. And remember, a happy mom, makes for a happy child!

Final Thoughts

As a SAHM, you might make the mistake of thinking that if you don’t bring home a paycheck, you’re not valuable or helping with the household expenses. You’re actually helping more than you think.

You don’t need a paycheck to add value to who you are. You are already one of the most valued members of society. You’re watching over human lives—your children—making sure they are safe, healthy, and happy. And as far as expenses go, you will be saving on daycare costs and transportation expenses.

If after reading all these amazing things about being a SAHM, you’re still conflicted, don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s not for everyone.

As I mentioned above, staying at home can be challenging. And in all honesty, it can have its drawbacks. That’s also why I provided you here some tips on how to be a successful stay-at-home mom.

For example, being at home with your children all the time can make you feel a little depressed or bored. You might not feel like you’re being stimulated by life or adult-like situations. Maybe some of the hobbies you used to enjoy get neglected, or you might feel financially dependent on your husband.

Furthermore, you might think you’ll lose all your abilities; the opportunity to utilize the educational training you received. Or maybe you miss the ritual of getting dressed, driving to work, and being around other people who are doing similar things. That’s all valid.

Only you can make that decision. While you’re thinking about it, though, let me remind you that as a SAHM you will be missing some things. But you’ll be gaining so much more.

Doing a presentation at work may get you kudos and accolades, but hearing the words, “I love you, mommy” is priceless. Watching your children grow up before your very eyes? Priceless. Making sure they’re safe and sound with you loving them all day? Priceless.

There is no other job in the world with those kinds of benefits. As a SAHM, you are the heart and soul of your castle.

Remember, too, that your children will grow up. You won’t have to wait until you’re 65 to retire. And although your job as Mom will never be done, you’ll be able to do many things that you didn’t get to do while on active duty.

When you are “done,” you will have the satisfaction of having accomplished an amazing feat. You can feel proud because success like that isn’t easy to come by.

The title of Stay-at-Home-Mom, despite what any group might say, is a powerful and inspiring one.

Are you up to the challenge?

Want to know more about being a successful stay-at-home mom and its benefits? Check these out:

More Tips for Stay-at-Home Moms

Featured photo credit: Alexander Dummer via unsplash.com

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