Five steps to managing your child’s anxieties

We can all feel anxious about different things in our lives.  But before your child’s anxieties stop them from grasping some great opportunities, help them to manage their anxieties with some simple steps.

Step One – Help them to understand what is happening

Begin managing your child’s anxiety by helping them to understand the reactions they are having.  Explain that they are feeling their bodies natural response to something it sees as a threat.  Talk to them about whether this experience is actually a threat and if so – how?  What damage do they think could be done?

Step Two – Help them voice their fears

For many children, the root of an anxiety is focused on an unrealistic goal.  While this may seem to encourage high standards, fear of being less than perfect can replace commitment with avoidance.  Instead, foster curiosity and exploration as you help them learn to embrace challenge, seeing mistakes simply as steps on the journey.

As they begin to use their words, talk about fears they can do something about and what is beyond their control.  Once this has focused their attentions, help them consider what they can change, while learning to accept what they cannot.  Help them see you as a place of comfort, where they have the freedom to express themselves honestly, and to receive support without judgement.  Your motivational influence in these moments will stay with them throughout their life.

Step Three – Help them manage the level of “threat” they are comfortable with

While you may be tempted to jump straight in, children need to learn important coping skills for themselves.  Avoid “rescuing” your child and instead, show them you have faith in their ability to manage the situation.  Start off small as you encourage them around their fear, be on hand to support if needed, but also be ready to step back and offer them a chance to figure it out.  Provided this is within their capabilities, the sense of achievement will do wonders for their confidence.

Step Four – Balance more difficult times with memories of happier, more stable moments

Help them remember good times and anticipate the future, focusing on the balance we all experience.  Give them space to enjoy nature, to run and explore.  Help them focus their attention on their senses as you teach them calming techniques.  And support them to use their voice as they experience their opinions and thoughts being heard.  Even if this starts in the smallest of ways by choosing what you will eat for dinner tonight.

Step Five – Help your child to get enough sleep

Anxiety can stop your child sleeping, and lack of sleep definitely intensifies anxiety.  Help your child break the cycle by reassuring them that the body will eventually do what it needs to do.  Create a calm, cosy and predictable bedtime routine as you think about pleasurable and interesting things, remember fun times and share a story.  Problems always seem more overwhelming when we are tired, so if these come up, put them in a “worry box” to be discussed in the morning.

This session is taken from our course: The Happy Child

Dr Kathryn Peckham is an Early Childhood Consultant, author and researcher and the founder of Nurturing Childhoods.  Providing all the knowledge, understanding and support you need to nurture your growing child.   www.nurturingchildhoods.co.uk

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