People make tons of assumptions about child anxiety. Unfortunately, many of these are completely false. I hear these assumptions from well-intentioned parents who are baffled by their anxious children. I hear them from friends and family who don’t get anxiety. Perhaps you hear these assumptions too.
It is time to bust 5 common myths about child anxiety:
Myth #1: Children have no reason to be anxious
I can almost quote verbatim what I hear time and time again in my office, “What does she have to be anxious about?” Parents rattle off privileges their child is fortunate to have – privileges they never had as a child.
This myth assumes that anxiety is due to external factors. It is based on the incorrect assumption that people need something to be anxious about. This belief couldn’t be further from the truth.
We don’t wonder why a child with Type I Diabetes can’t produce insulin. Nor should we question why a child might suffer from anxiety. Anxiety has a strong genetic component. Anxiety can be purely physiological, which means a child doesn’t need to be exposed to an external event to create anxiety. Anxiety will riddle the mind with What If scenarios that can create as much trauma as if they were real. Children will live in perpetual fear of events and situations that have never happened in real life, and probably never will.
Myth #2: Child anxiety is caused by poor parenting
This one breaks my heart. It is hard enough to have an anxious child, but to be condemned and even blamed for it, seems very unfair. I understand this on a professional level and sadly I get it on a personal level as well.
Parents will talk to me about the cruel comments their friends and family dole out. Comments like, “He needs some good discipline” and “She seems like a spoiled brat.” These comments are enough to deflate an already exhausted parent.
Anxiety cannot be “disciplined” out of a child. It is not a reflection of poor or permissive parenting. Those in the outside world might see a child having a meltdown, but what they don’t see are the events that led to the meltdown. They don’t see a child who is barely holding it together. A child who has been having an internal battle with anxiety all day. A battle the child has been losing.
Parenting doesn’t cause child anxiety. Discipline can’t fix it. It is as simple as that.
Myth #3: Child anxiety is uncommon
Kids don’t go around wearing a badge saying, “Anxious Kid.” They are great students, good friends, and considerate people. They don’t typically make waves or create problems. Due to this, most people are clueless that these kids suffer from anxiety.
Many anxious kids suffer silently. Often their teachers don’t know, their distant relatives don’t know, and their closest friends are clueless. This feeds the myth that child anxiety is rare. This is flat out incorrect.
Anxious kids are everywhere. Child anxiety affects many of our children.
Myth #4: Kids will grow out of child anxiety
The worst advice parents can get is that their children will outgrow anxiety. They can be told this by their pediatrician, their child’s teacher, and well-meaning relatives and friends.
The bottom line is anxiety doesn’t go away. It morphs and changes with age, but it doesn’t disappear.
The absolutely best thing any parent can do for anxious children is to teach them skills to combat anxiety as early as possible. A child is never too young to learn how to defeat anxiety.
Myth #5: Child anxiety happens to weak children
This myth is dead wrong and yet many fathers believe it. Often I work with dads who are embarrassed by their child’s fears. They are embarrassed by their child’s worries. They interpret their child’s anxiety as weakness.
Now obviously, there are wonderful fathers who completely get anxiety and do not have these erroneous beliefs. But some men struggle with the idea that their child is anxious, especially if it is their son.
Anxiety has nothing to do with bravery. In fact, anxious kids are some of the bravest children I know. They are constantly in a battle with irrational and overwhelming thoughts. An intense daily battle most of us will never know.
Parents and children with anxiety need support. They do not need judgment. They do not need criticism. They need to be loved and understood. Hopefully, we can debunk these myths and spread knowledge.
Have you dealt with people who believe in one of these myths? How did you deal with it? Leave a comment below and share with us.
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