Creative Child

Three Ways to Help Anxious Children

by Rebecca Eanes

My son recently started middle school. In the days leading up to and the several weeks since, he has been fraught with anxiety. He’s a worrier and a perfectionist, and I’m trying to teach him that he’s perfect just the way he is, even when he’s worrying.

Watching kids wrestle a big monster like anxiety is hard. We tend to think of childhood as that magical stretch of time when you are carefree and untouched by worry, but small children face big problems every single day. Especially in our fast-tracked and over-scheduled world, childhood isn’t the time we are free from stress but rather it’s when we first learn to manage it. Here are some tips for helping your child get a handle on their anxieties.

Don’t minimize the fears. Relate to them.

No parent wants to see their child struggle with worry, stress, or anxiety. Often, in our efforts to make our children feel better, we resort to phrases like:

“There’s nothing to worry about.”

“You’re making a big deal out of nothing.”

“It’ll be fine. Just stop worrying about it.”

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Unfortunately, these statements rarely alleviate the anxiety. Telling a child not to worry won’t prevent them from doing it, and while it may feel like we are encouraging them, these phrases really feel invalidating and discouraging. Think of a time when you were really worried or anxious and confided so in a friend. If you had been told you were making a big deal out of nothing, would that have made you feel better? I know it wouldn’t help me. Rather than downplaying your child’s emotions, just listen. Tell them about a time when you felt anxious or scared. Let them know that they are experiencing a normal human emotion and that it is uncomfortable but there are ways to cope. One of the lies anxiety tells us is that we are wrong or abnormal for feeling it, and this can make children feel even worse. They may feel ashamed for having worries they can’t control and feel like there is something wrong with them. Letting kids know that we hear and understand their feelings is so helpful in supporting them through these tough emotions.

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