41 thoughts on “9 Things Every Parent with an Anxious Child Should Try

  • November 19, 2014 at 1:54 pm

    Tremendously helpful and informative article!

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  • November 19, 2014 at 3:08 pm

    Great post, Renee, and many of the techniques you recommend are also part of the treatment for obsessive-compulsive disorder. And I agree, we should be teaching children and parents the proper ways to respond to anxiety-producing situations!

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  • November 20, 2014 at 7:57 pm

    Very helpful article. Would LOVE to see a “for kids” section on your site with articles similar to this, but directed at a CHILD READER. Have been searching for something like that for a couple of years with no luck. My son is a very bright, sensitive, socially awkward 8 year old. He’s getting to the age where advice from mom (that I might provide from reading this article myself) is not so cool, but articles like this are still a bit above him. Would love to see the same strategies but written at a kid level.

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    • January 3, 2015 at 7:25 am

      I completely agree, Emma! I really enjoyed this article and would have the same issues with my own child. I would LOVE to see something for kids. It could also easily constitute part of a class health programme!

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    • January 8, 2015 at 12:20 pm

      Sit with your child and read the headers, discuss what he/she thinks that means and then paraphrase what is said below in words that the child can understand. Most all of our kids understand more than we think they do and are really perceptive.

      Then talk about how they feel when the situations arise so that you both know what is going on and can better help him and he can help himself during the anxious times. My son and I developed “safe words” so that he could use them even when I wasn’t with him. He would whisper “Just Be and Breathe” during anxiety attacks or stressful times and it helped him. It’s our mantra and helps him stay calm a lot of the time. It took a few months to implement but now it’s second nature to him. I hope some of this can help you guys!

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  • November 21, 2014 at 2:31 pm

    Oh yes – I’ve been there with my son :-). Excellent suggestions here, thank you. Another way I’ve helped him overcome his fears is by spending more quality time instead of always being plugged into a device. I learned a lot from Susan Newman, Ph.D’s book on this entitled, “Little Things Long Remembered: Making Your Children Feel Special Every Day.” The author has really helped me create a warm, fun family environment for him, which has reduced his stress levels.

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  • November 22, 2014 at 8:22 am

    Thank you for this article. Both my daughter and I suffer from anxiety – when she was school aged I caved many Mondays. She missed over 28 during sixth grade. The suggestions in your article are good for anyone of any age.

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  • November 22, 2014 at 11:27 am

    I agree with all 9 things given in this post. Before starting with these 9 ideas, I believe parents need to ‘decide’ that “We will deal with anxiety safely and successfully.” This is because it is an unflinching determination that makes things to work out! Without a decision, these ideas will not work; but with a strong decision that does not change even in times of failure; these ideas are super rockers!

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  • November 22, 2014 at 4:20 pm

    I love this! Great article.

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  • November 23, 2014 at 1:27 pm

    I loved the article. Lots of great ideas to help us cope and to help our child cope with anxiety. I did however take exception to one particular line, “Please keep in mind, you did not cause your child’s anxiety”. Parents need to understand that they may indeed have caused their child’s anxiety and if so, then it is the parents that need to change their behaviour.
    The proof is in the pudding as they say. You wrote in your fourth paragraph, “You resort to anger……You feel terrible.” Anxiety can be reduced when parents control their anger.

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  • November 23, 2014 at 3:33 pm

    why is it assumed that it’s the schools’ responsibility to teach these ‘skills’

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  • November 23, 2014 at 11:49 pm

    I am a couple of months short of 70 years old, i was the shyest,quietest scaredest kid in school,constantly bullied and harrast..the teachers used to hit me for writing with my left hand and they used to say “why can,t you be more like your older sister? your a dummy compared to her”!.. i was frightened of my dad and my mum would always say “wait till your father gets home and then you will be in for a thrashing”!.. i have taken my life time to fight this fear.. i just want to say give kids a break let them feel safe and they will trust you and that for a dad is the ultimate, when your kids have the confidence to say to you “help me”without the fear of rejection.. then you have achieved parenthood. sorry about my spelling..i wasn,t too good in school.

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  • November 24, 2014 at 3:03 pm

    The one major thing being left out of this article is that anxiety is learned behavior from a child’s external environment which usually means anxious and over protective parents. Children pick up on every emotion around them, even before they can identify or define them.

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    • November 26, 2014 at 8:52 pm

      The reason that it is left out of the article is that there is not sufficient evidence to support this position. Many non anxious parents have anxious kids and they are completely bewildered by their behaviour. They do however have anxious relative as this brain glitch is often inherited.

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  • November 25, 2014 at 3:14 am

    Thank you so much for preparing this. It’s a blessing. And very appreciated. Concise, proactive and spot on. I wish I’d known this years ago as well, but that was then and this is now and I feel so relieved to have a plan such as this to follow. We have implemented some of these ideas as we figured them out through trial and error. And they worked. So I have great confidence in your advice. Thank you thank you thank you.

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  • November 25, 2014 at 4:50 am

    My 11 year old son Zak has mild autism, a big struggle for him is anxiety, which we call panic. Last year at school the special education co-ordinator discovered a wonderful book called “The Panicosaurus” it is amazing, Panicosaurus represents the anxiety, the story is about a little girl who always has Panicosaurus whispering in her ear and how she learns to overcome this by listening to “Smartosaurus”. This book really helped the other kids to understand Zak as well as helping him to change his thinking, remembering to step back and breathe and listen for Smartosaurus. We have adapted this into other areas of his life as well, we talk about “Excitosaurus” “Angersaurus” and many other things that he can relate to. This concept has made such a huge difference in his life, and this years teacher has been amazed at how self aware he is becoming, and is able to recognise when he needs to take a break to re-think, he has a quiet corner in the class where he will go to read for a little till he feels able to get back and try the task again. Last years teacher had a “Panicosaurus box” for him with little calming things in it, he had an aromatherapy playdough, capsules that when put in warm water slowly become sponge animals, and other things to focus him. At the beginning of the year he was still using this, but after a couple of weeks he no longer needed it πŸ™‚ This article is fantastic, so good to see more awareness being brought to this issue that so many children have, its not an easy thing to deal with and can be even harder trying to source help for your child, thank you so much for what you do xoxo

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  • November 25, 2014 at 7:48 am

    This is a great article that helped to calm me about my daughter’s anxieties. There’s a lot of great advice that am sure will help. Thank You for stop feeling so guilty about giving my child anxieties that I have been suffering since my first panic attack at age 13. My parents didn’t take meseriously and I was scared and all alone. I did not seek treatmentfor it until I was 20 years old when I went to county mental health on my own because it was controlling my life. Dealing with this as early as possible will bring a better chance of recovery. I’ve talked to my daughter about it and could totally understand how she felt since I wascoping too. We still have a ways to go but am hopeful that things will approve. Thanks so much for the great advice. I wish your daughter well.

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  • November 25, 2014 at 6:47 pm

    My daughter has cerebral palsy with some interesting cognitive effects. since birth been highly anxious and literally controls our lives with her anxiety. I have found that some really good books on anxiety and we are making slow progress. stopping and listening to her fears and giving her time to talk through them helps her, but her behaviour won’t change IE: she avoids people and situations that have in the past imprinted on her with some fear. So we can’t do a lot of things like visit people or walk down certain streets and she won’t go to school because someone at school hurt her. I could list a hundred, a thousand ways our lives have been affected by her anxiety. Yes, a great article and i agree that the children won’t listen when you try to reason, you have to get on their level and hear them out and do the worst case ‘what if’ stuff. A sense of humour is the most important thing but not used during the anxiety meltdown of course. I wonder how much of it does feed from my stress but then I’m stressed because of her anxiety meltdowns that stop me from working, stop her going to school, stop us shopping at certain places, and stop us seeing certain people or driving anywhere there are roadworks….and so on.. what I found is that each time she faces a fear and nothing happens and we talk about later she gets a little better, but I think just maturity is also helping. I hope one day she will be able to apply the strategies herself outside of home, and go to school so I can have a life.

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    • December 13, 2014 at 8:39 pm

      Thank you Mum for your story of your daughter with cerebral palsy and her anxieties. I work with young people with moderate to severe autism in a school setting and regularly see how restrictive anxiety can be for children and their families in their everyday lives – I have a lot of respect for you and recognise how hard it is.
      As one of the posts mentioned previously, routine is very important in relieving anxiety and providing structure and a feeling of safety for those affected. Forewarning of changes can also help in giving a young person enough time to process what’s going to happen and develop coping strategies to address their anxiety about a new or different situation.
      Regarding anxieties that may have stemmed from negative experiences, a point of view video can sometimes help to move through this. With driving through road works, for example, you can take a video (without your daughter in the car and without you in the video) from your eye level in the passenger seat (preferably with someone else driving) as you drive through a street with road works. There’s no need to give a narrative during this video unless you feel compelled to. This can then be a resource that your daughter watches in her own time (as many times as she wants) and may help move her through the projected anxieties that she believes she would experience. It may also give her the opportunity to articulate what she’s feeling and thinking with you (while she’s watching it) or communicate whether there may be a sensory concern for her.
      If you’re interested in some reading material, I would highly recommend Dr Barry Prizant and particularly his article on positive emotional memory. Basically, he says that in order to open up your child’s world a bit further, sometimes, a positive and playful experience around an anxiety can really help. As a carer, you are essentially creating small successful experiences and positive emotional memories with which to build on over time. I have found this very useful in my work. I hope this helps πŸ™‚

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  • November 26, 2014 at 4:25 pm

    Like you, I was this kid, and it tears me apart to see one of my boys becoming this kid. Thank you so much for such a great article.

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    • March 5, 2016 at 1:03 pm

      I was that kid too. It has been fifty years now since this started and I still remember the terrible tummy aches and problem with getting on the bus and going to school. I has that problem through 7th grade and then it got much better. I think part of my stress was being bullied on the bus. I was shy and older kids made fun of me. I was also a perfectionist who was worried about not doing well enough. Now two of my beautiful grandkids have this same problem, but it is much worse. I think children today are pushed even more in many ways. I started having problems again 11 years ago, after a near-fatal car accident. I have PTSD, depression and anxiety. Others don’t want to hear you speak of it and would rather deny your problem, especially those close to you. I would like to see an article about how the family can understand anxiety better. This article is very good and has many good points, I think.

      Reply
  • November 28, 2014 at 11:56 am

    great article. I too was a child that had a lot of anxiety. My mom was not very helpful with me. She would always make my anxiety worse. I always thought something was wrong with me!. wasn’t until years of therapy that I realize that there is nothing wrong with me. I now have children and my son had a lot of anxiety when he was little. I knew exactly what to do and what not to do. you need to validate what your child feels because it is very real to them. then have empathy and then find a solution. I have done this technique with my child from day one and I must say it has helped with many situations. kids need to feel accepted, safe and valued. again, great article!

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    • March 5, 2016 at 1:17 pm

      Without a parent or other adult who can help that child, it is so hard to get better. My Mom never had that sympathy and even now has no idea how to show compassion for illness of any kind. I don’t understand, but I love her and in all other ways she is still a great Mom. I have anxiety and depression that is really bad at times after I was in a car accident and was close to death. Someone else did die. I was in my mid forties and still needed my Mom. She was there but I don’t remember her giving me any hope or love. I think she feels it to a degree, but can’t talk to the person who is hurting. At this point, I have only one friend who I can talk to. None of my family want to hear a word about my physical and mental problems. I have gone to many doctors and therapists and guess a need to return. Thanks for this outlet.

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  • December 1, 2014 at 11:31 am

    Great article

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  • December 1, 2014 at 11:37 am

    This article is very helpful. If you want more resources to use at home with your kids, I recommend the following books.
    Wilma Jean the Worry Machine by Julia Cook (with companion Activity & Idea workbook)
    What to Do When You Worry Too Much: A Kid’s Guide to Overcoming Anxiety (What to Do Guides for Kids)
    by Dawn Huebner

    Parent Resource: The Anxiety Cure for Kids: A Guide for Parents and Children (Second Edition)by Elizabeth DuPont Spencer

    These have really helped our 8-year old. The first book gave her someone to identify with and the language to express her anxiety. The second workbook, in particular, resonated with her and has really helped her work through the anxiety. It’s manageable now with flare ups less than once/week after only working with these books about a month. I’m still working through the adult resource book. We’ve also been revisiting our approach to ‘discipline’ through 1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2–12 by Thomas W. Phelan. Using even more positive reinforcement has helped.

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  • December 1, 2014 at 3:15 pm

    What should you do if your child
    is too young to understand how to do theses things?

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    • December 3, 2014 at 10:12 pm

      Probably the best way to help young children with anxiety is to have lots of consistency. Routines for getting ready in the morning, getting ready for bed, etc. help because the child knows what to expect all most of the time. Be consistent with rules and discipline as well. If there will be a change in your daily routine, tell her ahead time. For example if Grandma will be picking her up from preschool or if you will be eating dinner out instead of at home, or skipping bathtime, or going to bed later than usual.
      Also modeli calm behavior, and avoid situations that can make you or her anxious, like running late for school, forgetting to have snacks on hand and letting you or her get too hungry, etc. if you are running late, hide your own anxiety and say, “we are going to be late, but that is ok. We will just have to try harder next time!”

      Reply
  • December 2, 2014 at 4:13 pm

    Thank you sharing this Renee! As a Family Life Coach I am always looking for new ways for parents to deal with anxious children. I love the idea of writing a checklist and laddering is a technique I use that works extremely well. It’s so important to provide parents with the necessary tools to support their child in dealing with their frustration and their child’s anxiety. I also use mindfulness with my clients, the programs you’ve created are wonderful! Please check out my website and I will be referring clients to your programs! http://www.harmonioushouseholds.com

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  • December 5, 2014 at 4:09 pm

    Great article! I am helping my 8 year old nephew with his reading and writing while his mom teaches everything else. He is very smart and can read very well, just doesn’t want to. I get frustrated with his playing around and crying all the time. He has anxieties galore. I have tried almost everything I can think of and more to ease them. He says what he thinks I want him to say, not what he is truly feeling even though I provide him with a variety of words. I want to help him learn to ease them because I hate seeing him so upset. I can’t find anything that works to help him calm down because when he starts crying he can’t stop. Tried a lot of things like putting his hand on his chest to focus on his breathing. Running out of things to do and try. Any suggestions? I have read numerous websites and articles and everything I have tried don’t seem to have any effect. I have to prepare him for big changes which is fine. Have no problem with doing that.
    He is homeschooled but does lots of things with other children in the neighborhood, church, basketball, karate, etc. Very outgoing, very friendly. Thanks for your advice.

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  • December 6, 2014 at 12:53 am

    Great article! Practical tips. Thank you for sharing these.

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  • December 17, 2014 at 8:15 am

    I think there are many good points in this article including the importance of FREEZE- to introduce breathing that will help break the tape loop of thoughts. I find this helpful with clients before musical performance anxiety or taking tests. Also, helping kids see things they’ve overcome is helpful. For instance, reminding someone that they had been terrified before of raising their hand in class, but now they are able to do that.

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  • January 7, 2015 at 7:57 pm

    These suggestions, while good, are not specific enough. Give some examples on how you can go from what if to the present, etc.

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  • January 16, 2015 at 8:53 am

    This article is great, but I feel there is something missing. What do you do when there is an actual reason for their anxiety? How do we take care of that, how do we figure it out if they are too scared to tell us. Anxiety comes from many different things and one could be that the child is being bullied or abused at school. What if the anxiety is because he feels so left behind in school? How do we help him cope, especially if they’re not being honest. as much as this article was good, I still feel there is something missing and I am left with more questions.

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  • January 21, 2015 at 12:30 am

    Thank you! Read thru this with my 9-year old and we’ve been implementing many of the things listed. He feels more positive and hopeful about his ability to manage and understand his feelings of anxiety.

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  • February 20, 2015 at 7:43 am

    thank you so much for the highly informative article! I love your technique for kiddos and including parents is key! Bravo!

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  • April 22, 2015 at 1:27 am

    A counselor, assisting me with anxiety, suggested that I do all that I can to address a concern or worry and then let go. I have found this to be extremely helpful in many circumstances, since I have generalized anxiety.
    I used this advice when my son was beginning to drive. I adopted a paradigm for myself, that no news was good news in regards to his safety while driving. I taught him all that I knew, and despite my anxiety, I maximized the amount of time he drove before receiving his actual license. I explained the consequences of reckless driving and my parental sanctions. His first week, he was speeding. I asked for his keys and returned them a week later. He yelled and complained, but I did not yield. He continued to have times of speeding and bore the consequences and paid for his tickets.

    Another helpful technique for me when I am anxious, is to ask myself why and look at the reality. Worries related to the future, I try to adopt a new thinking paradigm, acknowledging that what I fear may or may not happen. If my anxieties are related to ruminating about the past, I work to adopt the paradigm that I cannot change the past and I no longer live in the past. The negative experiences of abuse during my childhood or during my marriage are not part of my present reality. As the article mentioned, I try to stay mindful of the present. When I am mindful of the present, I am better able to make choices addressing the current circumstances. If I am being yelled at by my father, now in his 80’s, then I let him know that I’m leaving and will return at another time. This has curbed his yelling at me a great deal. As I have had more personal mastery of responding to events as they occur, my anxiety has lessened overall. When I tend toward feeling sorry for myself, having dealt with anxiety issues for a lifetime, I try to remember this paradigm, that everyone has challenges in their lives. We are all fellow pilgrims on a journey. I can choose to look to light rather than to darkness. After every life experience of darkness, light has always followed!

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  • June 4, 2015 at 8:14 pm

    This is a great post for people whose children show overt anxiety. With 4.5 year old my son we never see he anxiety until he suddenly starts having night terrors or bad dreams. Even when there is a situation where it would be abnormal to not feel anxious, for example when he had surgery, he doesn’t seem to have any problems in the moment. For obvious situations, we talk to him about it and do a lot of things mentioned here, but often problems occur when we had no idea he was anxious. Do you have any tips for finding and handling this hidden anxiety? It’s almost like he’s so busy during the day he doesn’t really process things and then at night, boom, his brain says “hey that was scary!”

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  • February 13, 2016 at 2:50 pm

    What a wonderful article! I wish we had come across this sooner…before he was diagnosed with PTSD on top of ASD ADHD Major Depressive Disorder and Anxiety. A half a year later and here we are considering pulling him from 8th grade public school because not only is NOT thriving…hes been regressing for four years now. He has been admitted to a psych care twice for suicidal ideology and threats. Finally…his In Home Intensive Therapist put in his discharge that he suffers from school related trauma. I am the type of mother who never stops looks for ways to help my son…I am going to bring this up with his out patient therapist and in school TDT and see if we can work some of thing into play. I like the Worry Box idea. It maybe more age appropriate. Great article!

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  • February 18, 2016 at 1:23 pm

    Or you could consider having them tested for Pyrrole disorder or Pyroluria. It is treatable with the right nutrition, but not well known as a cause of anxiety. The whole stomach hurts thing could be an important clue that something else is going on!

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  • February 18, 2016 at 3:29 pm

    I remember a day when my mother found out I was throwing up twice every morning before school, because the kids were bullying me, mocking me, and terrorizing me.
    My mother’s response was only to say: “Kids can be cruel.”
    Then, she shoved some food in her face and walked away.

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  • May 7, 2016 at 12:24 pm

    I think maybe I did create my daughters anxiety. Mornings of stress and anxiety driving from Ajax to Toronto in the morning in silence because I was stressed because I was usually running late. She was such a good kid. She didn’t say anything, but often got car sick. I’m sure she felt my anxiousness. I also remember that she would get upset if I was one of the last moms to pick her up at school. She is 18 now and suffers anxiety-albiet mildly. She has started to see a therapist. I wish i had enjoyed motherhood. I wanted so much to be a good mom that I treated it like a job, always thinking and doing what I “should” be doing rather than just living in the moment and enjoying it. If I could do it over again….

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