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Helping kids with anxiety: what to do

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1) Never belittle the anxiety that your child is feeling! To him/her, it is very real and scary. Even just dismissing it without being mean tells your child that he is not being heard and makes it less likely that he will confide in you about what you might consider "real problems"

2) Ask the following 3 questions and give them time to think about an answer:

(a) Is it possible or realistic that what you are worried about will happen? (e.g., a kid might be worried about vampires, which isn't possible, or they might be worried that their parents will die in a car accident, which is unlikely but still possible) Acknowledge that their possible fears ARE possibilities but try to let them see that they aren't very common or likely without minimizing the fear.

(b) If it's possible/realistic, then what's the worst that can happen? For many of our children's fears, the outcome is really not that horrible. For example, if they are worried that your car will run out of gas on the road b/c the low gasoline light turned on (this happens to me all the time b/c I'm terrible about refuelling), you can tell them: "Yes, it is possible that I will run out of gas, but I don't think it's very likely b/c I know there is a gas station a few blocks away. Still, even if we do, it will be annoying and big pain, but we have AAA membership and somebody will come to get us. And then maybe Mummy will learn her lesson to fuel up more frequently."

(c) If the the worst that can happen is really bad, will worrying stop it from happening?


There are a few different things you can try with kids who have anxiety.

First of all, you should try to figure out the source of the anxiety. Your child may be able to tell you, or might not really know exactly why they are feeling anxious.

Sometimes if you have them role play about the situation they become less anxious. For example, my son was very nervous about knocking on his friends doors to see if they could play. We role played about this situation and he became more comfortable.

You can also teach them coping strategies, like saying words of affirmation to themselves or writing in a diary to help them process the anxiety provoking things.

If you feel that your child may not be able to handle the anxiety without professional help DO NOT be afraid to go that route. There is absolutely nothing wrong with doing so if that is what they need!

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