You're all too familiar with the pain, stress and worry of anxiety if your child is suffering from this disorder. A parent will do anything to help their child, and thankfully, there are many things you can do to help your child cope with and overcome anxiety. Here are six small ways you can help:
1. Create a checklist together
Plan what you will do when your child feels anxious. Some experts suggest the 5-4-3-2-1 grounding exercise. Others suggest breathing techniques using bubbles, shapes or pinwheels. Create a checklist together so when an anxious situation arises, you and your child know exactly what to do.
When your child is in a stressful situation, allow him or her to take small breaks every once in a while. For example, if he or she has social anxiety, step away from the group with your child for a few minutes during a party.
However, don't keep your child from anxiety-inducing situations. You might assume keeping him or her safe from stressful situations can help, but it actually has the opposite effect. Anxiety typically reduces after 20 to 45 minutes in an anxiety-provoking situation, says anxiety disorder expert Amy Przeworski.
Help your child by being in stressful situations together, and allow him or her to take breaks when needed. Just being around what makes your child anxious can help him or her to face and overcome what's causing their anxiety.
3. Validate your child's feelings
Shutting down your child's worry with "you're fine" or "calm down" will only make matters worse. Dr. Przeworski suggests parents validate their child's feelings by acknowledging that he or she is scared and then discussing their emotions. This will help him or her feel understood and loved, and your child will be more likely to turn to you for help the next time anxious feelings arise.
It's important that you have the same expectations for your child with anxiety that you would for any other child, according to The Children's and Adult Center for OCD and Anxiety. However, you should understand that the pace might be slower, as you'll need to coach your child as he or she overcomes these anxious situations.
Experts from the center suggest breaking bigger goals down. For example, for a child with social anxiety, plan to stay at a party for only the first 30 minutes. Then next time, try to stay for an hour. Start small and work up to help your child accomplish big goals.
5. Be flexible
Experts suggest parents be flexible but also try to maintain a normal day-to-day schedule. Plan for the unexpected by making more time in the morning to get ready for school. Allowing you and your child extra time can help you remain flexible if your child starts feeling anxious.
Show excitement for the little things. Mention it if your child got ready for school with a positive attitude or if he or she built up the courage to talk to a new classmate. Praise your child's small accomplishments - sometimes hearing your praise is all he or she needs to keep pushing forward.
Don't lose hope when times get hard. Overcoming or managing anxiety will likely be a long, difficult process. But with your help and encouragement, your child can learn great coping techniques and tips as he or she works to overcome anxiety.