How to Be a Non-anxious Parent of a Highly Anxious Child

Reviewed Feb 28, 2017

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Summary

Children with anxiety disorders present unique challenges for parents.

James is afraid of thunderstorms. So much so, that the sight of dark clouds provokes so much anxiety that he sleeps in his parents’ bed three to four nights per week.

Chandra is so fearful of being away from her mother and father that she often refuses to go to school.

Christopher worries about everything. Schoolwork, running out of gas when riding in the car, being late, missing meals, you name it—he worries about it.

What do these children have in common? Anxiety disorders, and exasperated parents.

Anxiety disorders are medical conditions characterized by excessive, persistent, and debilitating worry. Children with anxiety disorders present unique challenges for parents. Helping an anxious child cope with unrealistic or excessive worry is not easy. It requires patience, understanding, listening, and teaching—and, a lot of love.

Here are some specific strategies that can help.

Slow down

Anxious children frequently feel overloaded and overwhelmed. Recognize times when less is better. You can lighten the load by eliminating structured activities, such as Little League or music lessons, for more unstructured time to play and unwind. You can also use this time to strengthen your relationship with your child.

Acknowledge your child’s fears

Remember that anxious children don’t want to worry or feel afraid. So never insist that your child should not feel that way. Rather, acknowledge that you understand that her feelings are intense and overwhelming at times, but help her distinguish between her feelings and reality. Assure her that everyone feels afraid at times—even you. For example, if your daughter is afraid of getting lost at the mall, tell her that all young children feel that way sometimes. Explain that's why you hold her hand and keep her in sight whenever you take her shopping.

Listen for your child’s feelings

Simply talking about a fear can make it less overwhelming. Let your child express his feelings in his own words. Assure him that you think his questions and concerns are important. But always remain rational and realistic. By remaining calm you will assure your child that whatever is scaring him will not rattle you. By listening to the details of a bad dream or troubling experience at school, you will gain valuable insight into your child’s world. You will be in a better position to help your child reframe his thoughts and see the world in a light that is less worrisome.

Lighten up

Gentle kidding and laughter are good medicine for diffusing anxious moments with children. Whenever possible use humor to distract your child from fearful thoughts or circumstances. Seeing you relaxed and laughing can help her see things differently. You can also tell your child a humorous story from your life that involved something fearful and show that it turned out OK. Knowing that you have been afraid or embarrassed and survived can reduce her drama and keep fearful feelings in perspective.

Recognize your limits

You can’t make your child’s anxiety disorder go away. So don't fall into the trap of providing constant reassurance or trying to fix everything for your child. Remember that anxious children are anxious even when there is no clear reason to be. Whenever possible, encourage him to come up with solutions and strategies for dealing with his fears.

Get support for yourself

Living with an anxious child is stressful. Talking with friends and family members about your stress and frustration can help. If you feel overwhelmed, call the toll-free number on this site and talk with a professional.

By Drew Edwards, EdD

Summary

Children with anxiety disorders present unique challenges for parents.

James is afraid of thunderstorms. So much so, that the sight of dark clouds provokes so much anxiety that he sleeps in his parents’ bed three to four nights per week.

Chandra is so fearful of being away from her mother and father that she often refuses to go to school.

Christopher worries about everything. Schoolwork, running out of gas when riding in the car, being late, missing meals, you name it—he worries about it.

What do these children have in common? Anxiety disorders, and exasperated parents.

Anxiety disorders are medical conditions characterized by excessive, persistent, and debilitating worry. Children with anxiety disorders present unique challenges for parents. Helping an anxious child cope with unrealistic or excessive worry is not easy. It requires patience, understanding, listening, and teaching—and, a lot of love.

Here are some specific strategies that can help.

Slow down

Anxious children frequently feel overloaded and overwhelmed. Recognize times when less is better. You can lighten the load by eliminating structured activities, such as Little League or music lessons, for more unstructured time to play and unwind. You can also use this time to strengthen your relationship with your child.

Acknowledge your child’s fears

Remember that anxious children don’t want to worry or feel afraid. So never insist that your child should not feel that way. Rather, acknowledge that you understand that her feelings are intense and overwhelming at times, but help her distinguish between her feelings and reality. Assure her that everyone feels afraid at times—even you. For example, if your daughter is afraid of getting lost at the mall, tell her that all young children feel that way sometimes. Explain that's why you hold her hand and keep her in sight whenever you take her shopping.

Listen for your child’s feelings

Simply talking about a fear can make it less overwhelming. Let your child express his feelings in his own words. Assure him that you think his questions and concerns are important. But always remain rational and realistic. By remaining calm you will assure your child that whatever is scaring him will not rattle you. By listening to the details of a bad dream or troubling experience at school, you will gain valuable insight into your child’s world. You will be in a better position to help your child reframe his thoughts and see the world in a light that is less worrisome.

Lighten up

Gentle kidding and laughter are good medicine for diffusing anxious moments with children. Whenever possible use humor to distract your child from fearful thoughts or circumstances. Seeing you relaxed and laughing can help her see things differently. You can also tell your child a humorous story from your life that involved something fearful and show that it turned out OK. Knowing that you have been afraid or embarrassed and survived can reduce her drama and keep fearful feelings in perspective.

Recognize your limits

You can’t make your child’s anxiety disorder go away. So don't fall into the trap of providing constant reassurance or trying to fix everything for your child. Remember that anxious children are anxious even when there is no clear reason to be. Whenever possible, encourage him to come up with solutions and strategies for dealing with his fears.

Get support for yourself

Living with an anxious child is stressful. Talking with friends and family members about your stress and frustration can help. If you feel overwhelmed, call the toll-free number on this site and talk with a professional.

By Drew Edwards, EdD

Summary

Children with anxiety disorders present unique challenges for parents.

James is afraid of thunderstorms. So much so, that the sight of dark clouds provokes so much anxiety that he sleeps in his parents’ bed three to four nights per week.

Chandra is so fearful of being away from her mother and father that she often refuses to go to school.

Christopher worries about everything. Schoolwork, running out of gas when riding in the car, being late, missing meals, you name it—he worries about it.

What do these children have in common? Anxiety disorders, and exasperated parents.

Anxiety disorders are medical conditions characterized by excessive, persistent, and debilitating worry. Children with anxiety disorders present unique challenges for parents. Helping an anxious child cope with unrealistic or excessive worry is not easy. It requires patience, understanding, listening, and teaching—and, a lot of love.

Here are some specific strategies that can help.

Slow down

Anxious children frequently feel overloaded and overwhelmed. Recognize times when less is better. You can lighten the load by eliminating structured activities, such as Little League or music lessons, for more unstructured time to play and unwind. You can also use this time to strengthen your relationship with your child.

Acknowledge your child’s fears

Remember that anxious children don’t want to worry or feel afraid. So never insist that your child should not feel that way. Rather, acknowledge that you understand that her feelings are intense and overwhelming at times, but help her distinguish between her feelings and reality. Assure her that everyone feels afraid at times—even you. For example, if your daughter is afraid of getting lost at the mall, tell her that all young children feel that way sometimes. Explain that's why you hold her hand and keep her in sight whenever you take her shopping.

Listen for your child’s feelings

Simply talking about a fear can make it less overwhelming. Let your child express his feelings in his own words. Assure him that you think his questions and concerns are important. But always remain rational and realistic. By remaining calm you will assure your child that whatever is scaring him will not rattle you. By listening to the details of a bad dream or troubling experience at school, you will gain valuable insight into your child’s world. You will be in a better position to help your child reframe his thoughts and see the world in a light that is less worrisome.

Lighten up

Gentle kidding and laughter are good medicine for diffusing anxious moments with children. Whenever possible use humor to distract your child from fearful thoughts or circumstances. Seeing you relaxed and laughing can help her see things differently. You can also tell your child a humorous story from your life that involved something fearful and show that it turned out OK. Knowing that you have been afraid or embarrassed and survived can reduce her drama and keep fearful feelings in perspective.

Recognize your limits

You can’t make your child’s anxiety disorder go away. So don't fall into the trap of providing constant reassurance or trying to fix everything for your child. Remember that anxious children are anxious even when there is no clear reason to be. Whenever possible, encourage him to come up with solutions and strategies for dealing with his fears.

Get support for yourself

Living with an anxious child is stressful. Talking with friends and family members about your stress and frustration can help. If you feel overwhelmed, call the toll-free number on this site and talk with a professional.

By Drew Edwards, EdD

The information provided on the Achieve Solutions site, including, but not limited to, articles, quizzes, and other general information, is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical, health care, psychiatric, psychological or behavioral health care advice. Nothing contained on the Achieve Solutions site is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or as a substitute for consultation with a qualified health care professional. Please direct questions regarding the operation of the Achieve Solutions site to Web Feedback. If you have concerns about your health, please contact your health care provider.  ©2017 Beacon Health Options, Inc.

 

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