No one says it is easy to be a parent and it is all the more challenging to raise an anxious child. I write these words from two vantage points. I am a clinical psychologist who specializes in the treatment of children with anxiety disorders and I am the parent of a highly anxious little girl.
As with all individuals who struggle with anxiety, my daughter Alexandra is uncomfortable with the unknown. Therefore, introducing her to any new activity is always a challenge. For example, this morning was the tenth day of a new camp. I woke up, took a deep breath and prepared myself to hear a chorus of "I don't want to go to camp! I am tired. It is not fair...blah blah blah." When I dropped off Alexandra at camp, it seemed that every other kid was whizzing by us, with grins from ear to ear, high fiving counselors and forgetting to say good bye to their parents, as they eagerly embraced their day. And then there was me and little Alexandra...otherwise known as Velcro. She clung to me for dear life, looking like a deer in head lights, stating "Please give me one more hug." With a light hearted tone, I replied back, "On the count of three, I am out of here," and then counted to three and ran like the wind out of there.
What Alexandra did not get to see was me standing on my tippy toes, peeking in through the window, observing how in matter of two or three minutes, she adapted to her environment and began to interact with her counselors and friends. It is so hard to compassionately push your child forward, as they protest, whine and fall apart but this is what we owe them. They deserve to learn, through hard earned life lessons, not through talk, that they in fact can face and over come their fears.
5 tips for parenting your anxious child:
#1. Love them for who they are, with all of their strengths and weaknesses. Try not to let the hard moments over shadow all that is good about your child.
#2. Know that change is possible and ineffective behaviors can be replaced with effective coping. Your child can learn to override the frequent false alarm going off in their over active nervous system.
#3. Have compassion for their struggles. There may be moments when you cannot grasp why your child is reacting so strongly but know that to them, the danger of the situation feels real and imminent.
#4. Believe in their strength. They have no idea how powerful they are. See their potential and they will follow suit.
#5. Help them come to understand they can do so much more than their anxious brains tell them is possible. Share examples of times you were scared and took action anyway.
July 23, 2012 at 6:23 PM
Looking for more one on one advice- Contact Debra at Flourish Studios
or visit her website at www.Lightonanxiety.com
. Do you have tried and true strategies for helping your anxious little one? Tell us about it by leaving a comment!