Three parenting hacks to help an anxious child
Last updated 1/6/2021 at 3:02pm | View PDF
When anxious behavior and emotions show up in life it often feels all-encompassing.
For a parent of an anxious child, having just the right tools to guide your child through their anxious feelings can feel extremely challenging. Learning how to show up for your anxious child, to walk with them in their feelings and guide them takes practice. There will be struggles and tough moments. The important thing is to work together, helping them with the tough feelings and emotions of life.
I have found the following three things really important to practice with an anxious child. Keep in mind, they are tips, not the be all end all.
Hack No. 1: Track the anxiety
Does it get big at bed time? Maybe at school drop off or right before eating a meal.
Whenever it shows up, it's helpful to note and see if a pattern emerges. If there is a pattern, then you may begin to notice what happens right before the anxiety and find clues to what is causing the feelings. With a pattern, you can begin to plan for big feelings of anxiety, talk about what you are going to do and then implement it together.
Hack No. 2: Problem solve with your child
Children have anxiety but they don't have to be defined by anxiety. This is important to teach children so that they have a way to look at their feelings but not allow them to be all encompassing.
One great way to do this is to ask your child's anxiety what it might need in the moment, such as a hug, a drink of water, fresh air, a song, some time with mom, etc. In asking what your child may need (and giving them a few options or examples to start) you are giving your child ways to problem solve for what the feeling needs.
• Hack No. 3: Implement anxiety plans, playfully
Being playful with your child when helping them deal with their anxiety can help them meet the challenging feelings in a new way. Try naming your anxiety, checking the anxious thoughts out and talking directly to anxiety with your child.
Example: If you have tracked your child's anxiety to be a half hour before bed time, begin to talk about the feelings that might be coming mid-day. Problem solve with your child as to what they might need before bed to feel less anxious, and if they want to share anything that they know to be true with their anxious feelings. This will give you a way to plan for the anxiety, problem solve for anxiety's needs and practice ways to implement your strategies.
• Bonus hack: Keep your child (and self) hydrated
Really? Yes, really! Poor hydration is a cause of increased anxiety symptoms.
Hydration is important in keeping bodies running. Something as simple as drinking enough liquid to stay hydrated throughout each day can make a big difference in your child's anxiety levels.
Anxious behavior and emotions don't have to stay all encompassing. So give these hacks a try today.
If you need additional resources and support, give a therapist a call today. Don't parent alone.
- Susan Stutzman, LCPC, RPT, is an owner/child therapist at Kid Matters Counseling in Hinsdale.