Anxiety is very common and normal emotion that we all experience. If you are a parent of an anxious child, you know what it is like to be a hostage and so does your child. Children who worry too much go to lengths to avoid situations that they perceive as frightening. They ask anxiety related questions and the answers that are provided to them do not offer any relief. The anxiety simply remains in control and cripples them. The anxiety grows and grows. Your child has accustomed to dealing with anxiety in a certain way and changing these patterns will require effort and time from you and your child.
The following will describe certain techniques your child can do to help alleviate symptoms of anxiety:
It is important to explain to your child what anxiety or worry is and how it grows. You can tell your child that anxiety or worry grows just like any fruit or vegetable. They grow because you pay attention to the fruit or vegetable. You plant a seed, you water it and a green shoot appears. If you keep watering it the shoot will turn into a stalk and many fruits or vegetables will appear. Many children pay attention to their worries and eventually their worries will grow just like the small seed. So how do we make the worries go away?
1) Tell your child to put their worries into words: Tell your child to think about what is really true as opposed to what they are afraid might happen. Reminding your child that if a bad thing happens they can get through it or they can make a plan to help them feel calmer and less worried. For example, your child could be afraid of big dogs. If your child is invited to a friends house, they may worry that their friend has a dog and will bite them. You can help by telling your child to find out if their friend has a dog and if so, to create a plan such as telling the friend to hold the dog or lock the dog in another room.
2) Create a Worry Time: It is a good idea to spend less time on worries. If you do not spend time on them, they will eventually go away. Create a Worry Time with your child. During this time, you will sit with your child for about 15-20 minutes talking about whatever they are worried about. This time should not be interrupted, instead it is a time where you will offer help and just listen. You can tell them that if they have a worry to lock it up in their imaginary worry box, walk away and get distracted with something else. Their worry that they locked up will only be opened during worry time.If they distract themselves, the worry will lessen. The point for a worry box is to help children learn not to pay attention to their worries all the time because the worries will grow. By the time they reach “Worry Time” their worries won’t be BIG problems anymore.
3) Talk Back (to worries): Teach your child to talk back to their worries and then to distract themselves by playing or watching television. Tell your child that if the worry continues to talk to them, to do something else and not to pay attention to the worry. Tell them to imagine that their worries are like bullies. They can tell the worry bully “Leave me alone,” “Go away,” ” You are bugging me,” “I’m not going to listen to you,”or “I don’t believe you.”
4) Relaxation: Teach you child relaxation techniques. Have your child get involved with an activity that is fun, teach them to breath slowly in through the nose and out through the mouth, and try some progressive relaxation techniques. Of course you need to make the techniques child appropriate. Also, you can tell them to use visualization-to think of a memory that they like and makes them feel good. I like this visualization: Imagine that they are a baseball player and every ball that is thrown represents a worry. Each worry that is pitched to them, they hit the ball out of the ballpark.
5) They are in control: Tell your child that they are in control of their worries. The same way that they control the television when they have the remote control (they are able to change the channel) they can change the channel when they worry by simply not paying attention to them. They are in control of the worries, the worries are not in control of them.
6) Teach your child to be strong: Being mentally strong is important. Have your child tell you what they are good at and then have them do it. Teach them to be proud of themselves. Gaining confidence is important to fighting worry bullies away.
Fighting your worries is hard and takes a lot of practice. The more a child practices the better and stronger they will become and the weaker the worry bullies will get. What does your child do to fight off worries?