23 thoughts on “5 Things Never to Say to an Anxious Child

  • January 16, 2015 at 12:55 pm

    Renee, I loved your article and vulnerable self-disclosure. I am forwarding your wisdom to all my clients who have anxious kids. Empathy and acceptance are so important rather than trying to tell a kid to buck up. Big hugs of thanks!

    • January 20, 2015 at 8:11 am

      Awesome, Judy, thank you and big hugs. 🙂

  • January 17, 2015 at 8:13 pm

    THANKYOU……my son whom is 13 suffers from many fears just like you did,when we leave the house he is worried the door wasnt locked,when we go on vacation he dreads that someone will break in,i have tried so very hard to make him feel comfortable but know it goes deeper than just being a worrier.He has been diagnosed with social anxiety & i want to give him the right tools to help him cope…your words & how your perspective have changed my thoughts is priceless .thankyou

    • January 20, 2015 at 8:14 am

      Amanda, you are so very welcome. Your son is lucky to have such a caring, supportive mom. And please know, there are coping tools he can learn to manage what he’s going through. While anxiety is a challenge, we also know now that it’s manageable. Sending you positive energy, Renee

  • January 18, 2015 at 9:27 am

    I was constantly the victim of panic attacks. Only I didn’t know what they were (I’m 56 now) when I was a kid. They could be set off by scary movies, unexplainable mysteries, nightmares (I had frequent ones) or just my own free-floating anxieties. It wasn’t until I turned about 15 that they seemed to diminish and dissipate on their own. I don’t know how or why. At times I literally thought I was cracking up.

    • January 20, 2015 at 8:15 am

      dmw, I feel what you’re saying. Panic attacks can feel like you’re “cracking up”. I’ve even said I thought I was “dying” at some points during a panic attack. Happy to hear those days are in the past for you. Thanks for sharing.

  • January 18, 2015 at 3:58 pm

    “Night-night, sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs bite.” It’s a traditional phrase, but my son was terrified. I never said that again.

  • January 19, 2015 at 2:06 am

    We spent many days and crying trying to understand our child’s social anxiety. This article does a fine job helping parents understand and gives valuable advice on how to help your child. I wished that I read this a couple of years ago because it costed us thousands to have a psychologists tell us these methods for our child. They really do work.

    • January 20, 2015 at 8:16 am

      They really do work! I agree. Thanks for sharing.

  • January 19, 2015 at 10:40 am

    I hate to say it but I really disagree with you on #1 a ton. I had sever anxiety as a kid and no one understood that. I had it so badly that I would have GI problems during panic attacks, which only heightens the embarassment. The main thing that I wanted above all else, was reassurance that I was going to be okay and that I wasn’t dying of some terrible disease or having a heart attack.

    I remember once when I was 19 my step-mother took me to the doctor because I was having chest pains. I was in full blown panic and sitting there thinking I was having a heart attack. Everyone in the room was reading magazines and no one cared.

    I’ll give you the REAL list of what not to say to a child with anxiety:

    #1 Stop being so dramatic!

    #2 You only do this for attention!

    #3 You just need to relax / chill out / calm down!

    #4 You only do this to get out of doing things!

    #5 What do you have to be nervous about? You’re just a kid!

    Thankfully, I know what panic in kids looks like. And now that my 12 year old son is having panic attacks I know what it is. But he lives with his father who thinks that panic attacks are animal allergies or him trying to get out of things. He does go to therapy, and I told his dad to make sure he talks to the therapist about anxiety. But, of course, part of why I divorced that man is because he knows all and I’m just an idiot.

    • January 20, 2015 at 8:18 am

      I don’t disagree with you – kids don’t fit into boxes. Thanks for contributing your perspective on 5 more things that may not be so helpful to say to kids experiencing anxiety. And thanks for contributing to the discourse with your perspective. Sincerely, Renee

    • January 27, 2015 at 4:30 am

      A thousand and one yeses to “you only do this to get attention.” I still hear this given as the main reason for pathoslogy in children in general in certain circles. Crazy making.

  • January 19, 2015 at 11:54 am

    A heartfelt thank you for the terrific, thorough summary for the parents of anxious children.

    I sadly saw myself a few times in what not to say.

    The three sincere words you recommend, “I get it” have the power to change everything.

    • January 20, 2015 at 8:18 am

      The first time I heard those three words from my parents, there was a shift for me.

  • January 20, 2015 at 12:50 am

    Having suffered anxiety since I was a little girl, I recognize some of the dismissive comments that were made to me. Other comments,from my aunt,”your just like our side of the family. I can’t wait until you are 16 and we can take you to our nerve doctor.” Doctors said that I was having sympathetic chest pain because my dad just died from heart attack. I actually had an ulcer and thought I would die in my sleep.when my parents would leave my three older brothers to baby sit me, they would turn out all the lights and hide, just to jump out at me.
    I remember having a nightmare when I was about 5 of the bunk bed I was on was rolling down the street with a lion I the bottom bunk! I remember the bread man would come I the house to deliver bread and always want to hug me and I would run away. Why do children have anxiety that young?

  • January 20, 2015 at 11:00 am

    My youngest daughter is a very anxious child, especially at night. she is now 16, and very intelligent. She still has terrors at night.

    I have asked her about these, she stated they started after the school were teaching stranger danger. She thought that everyone was out to get her, and still gets that fear even today. To help her, my daughter and I put new deadbolt locks on the front door, and chain locks on the back door. She locks up every night to make sure we are safe. Interestingly enough, she does not care of the door is locked while we are gone, just if we are home.

  • January 22, 2015 at 10:11 am

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. I have an anxious child and I often feel so helpless which leads to frustration. I so desperately want to demonstrate my love and support but don’t know how. You have given me practical ways of relating to her.

  • January 24, 2015 at 9:26 pm

    Ms Jain, did all the conversation take place while you stood chilled and frightened, next to your half-asleep parents, snug in their bed?

    How would you have felt if they had gotten up, walked to the door with you and shown you the door was locked, And Then said something like, “Thank you for being concerned about our family’s safety. You are just like me- that’s why I lock the doors before going to bed. You are a smart and caring part of our family.Thank you for coming to me. We can all go back to bed now.”

    Just a thought while imagining the scenario.

  • July 8, 2015 at 11:29 am

    I would also add, don’t tell your child that s/he is too young to be nervous. I remember having anxiety for as long as I have memory. My parents, trying to be helpful, told me I wasn’t anxious, I was just excited. There wasn’t much people could do about an anxious child in the fifties—no therapy or antianxiety meds. I still have anxiety but I have learned how to cope much better with it through therapy, meds, EFT tapping, meditation, breathing, and the like.

  • August 17, 2015 at 8:17 pm

    god I actually wish my family had been nice enough to say well intentioned things which went wrong I was made to be even more afraid and alone just being screamed at and beaten every day and yes as an adult they told me they were abusing me deliberately and purposefully things like this help put into perspective just how bad it was when you suffer like that as a child it’s bad but when you have nowhere to go no love no hope no gentleness reassurance or care,I’m stuck in some of those feelings the fear the pressing need to act coming simultaniously with the inability to do anything except nothing when your like this you can’t fix your problem alone and nobody will help you they usually run away and the ones who stay just insult you or disregard your pain and problems by saying things like “stop being negative”then after they say that they are gone for either months or forever and if you get bad enough you can’t go in for professional help and if you dare to try your going to sit down in an office with the most dangerous enemy you will ever face and if you slip up if you lose then the person you’ve gone to for help will lock you in a prison cell for no crime with no trial for life without the possibility of freedom for the only things which can help and heal you are outside the walls of the mental hospital and if you say the wrong thing you will commit suicide from the lonliness you can’t take because there will never be a hand to hold or a mouth to kiss there will be no sunlight no oceans no cheeseburger no kiwi no bus rides and new friends no music no movie theater no escape no way out….so what the hell do you do,me soon I have to walk in there with the deadliest enemy I could ever face sit down and speak and I cannot make one error or tell them anything about my past or I will recieve no treatment just recommendations for pills I refuse to take meanwhile the stress of what I’m doing threatens to send me into a panick attack it’s not okay that they do this to us

  • August 21, 2015 at 8:14 am

    This also applies to adults and adolescents. Sometimes people tell me to just get over it, just don’t be anxious it makes everybody else stressed. It can’t be reasoned with and the most effective response is the breathing exercises.


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