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How To Help Your Children With Anxiety? || Fit Kid

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How To Help Your Children with Anxiety (Do's and Don'ts)

Anxiety is a common term to describe feeling nervous, but for children with an anxiety disorder, it can be an overwhelming fear of something or a situation that isn't threatening. As parents, it can be challenging to understand this disorder and provide the necessary support to our children. Specific family interactions can inadvertently exacerbate anxiety by reinforcing anxious thought patterns. To help you navigate this, here are some essential do's and don'ts for assisting your child with anxiety.

How to Help Your Children with Anxiety

1. Don't engage in reasoning; instead, utilize grounding techniques

During an anxiety attack, your child's symptoms can distort their thoughts, making their fears appear more reasonable. To alleviate these symptoms and help them overcome their fear, encourage using grounding techniques. For instance, they can try sucking on a sour-sweet candy or practising the 33×3 technique, naming three sounds, sights, and smells around them. Aromatherapy can also be helpful. These techniques redirect their attention away from anxiety symptoms, temporarily allowing them to focus on something else. Grounding techniques facilitate facing fears and managing anxiety by diverting attention and promoting gradual exposure.

 2. Avoid enabling avoidance; instead, provide support

As parents, our instinct is to shield our children from distress. Therefore, it's natural to want to offer short-term relief by allowing them to avoid frightening situations. However, while this may provide temporary comfort, it can worsen your child's anxiety in the long run. Instead, work with your child to create a plan that involves approaching anxiety-related situations step by step. You can help reduce extreme distress while supporting them by outlining gradual steps to confront their fears. This support may include encouraging words, expressing love, consulting with a psychologist, and communicating with your child's educators. It's crucial to instil confidence in your child's abilities and empower them to make their own decisions, no matter how small, to foster their self-assurance.

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3. Avoid becoming stressed; instead, maintain a calm demeanour

Being attuned to your child's emotions is a valuable trait for a parent. However, when it comes to handling your child's anxiety, it can also be a drawback. Reacting to stress and anxiety yourself will only heighten the situation. Demonstrating calmness teaches your child how to manage stress, alleviates their fears, and instils confidence in their ability to cope. Remaining calm enables clearer thinking, helping you make thoughtful decisions regarding your child's support.

4. Avoid empowering anxious feelings; instead, respect and acknowledge them

Validation does not equate to agreement; understanding this distinction is essential. You can empathize with your child's fear without reinforcing or dismissing it. For example, if your child has health anxiety and is afraid of an illness they don't have, you don't want to amplify those feelings by agreeing with their unfounded belief. However, you should avoid belittling their emotions, as it can intensify anxiety. Instead, listen attentively, empathize, and help them understand the source of their concern. Please encourage them to face their fears while assuring them that you are there to support and guide them. Phrases such as "I understand you're scared, and that's okay. I'm here for you, and we'll get through this together" can be incredibly reassuring, making your child feel understood and not alone.

a girl sitting lonely on a bench

5. Avoid asking leading questions; instead, encourage open communication

Leading questions can inadvertently perpetuate the anxiety cycle. It's better to ask open-ended questions or engage in discussions about their worries, allowing them to express their feelings without further empowering their fear. Instead of asking, "Are you anxious about failing your test?" try asking how they

 Feel about the test or how they're feeling in general. Giving your child control over expressing their emotions diminishes anxiety's hold on them. Another effective strategy is to problem-solve together. If your child is worried about a stranger picking them up, discuss what they could do if it happened and create a plan, such as having a unique code or password to verify safe pickups. Addressing their concerns proactively, you help reduce uncertainty and empower your child to handle potential challenges.

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6. Avoid dietary restrictions; instead, promote a balanced diet

Nutrition plays a significant role in mental health, including anxiety management. Supporting your child's nutritional needs can make a notable difference in the severity of their anxiety symptoms. Specific vitamins and minerals like magnesium and omega-3 help balance mood and reduce nervousness. Additionally, serotonin, a hormone that affects anxiety levels, is primarily produced and absorbed in the gut. Foods rich in serotonin-supporting nutrients, like fish, oats, and dairy products, can aid absorption. Encouraging your child to engage in regular exercise not only helps alleviate anxiety symptoms but also boosts serotonin production.

two girls buying grocery

7. Avoid unpredictability; instead, establish a routine

Anxiety often stems from a fear of uncertainty. Creating a consistent routine can help alleviate this fear and provide a sense of predictability for your anxious child. Establish fixed daily wake-up, nap, meal, play, homework, and family times. This way, your child knows what to expect, fostering a sense of safety in their environment. A routine can also reduce prolonged periods of anticipation and minimize the feeling of impending doom. If your child experiences anxiety related to doctor visits and shots, schedule the appointment immediately after playtime, reducing the time they spend dwelling on potential adverse outcomes. Predictability allows your child to focus on specific activities at home, such as designated TV or dinner time, helping them overcome their fears.

three kids feeling lonely

Final Thoughts

 it's essential to understand that anxiety cannot be eliminated, but effective management strategies can significantly improve your child's well-being. While seeking short-term relief may seem tempting, equipping your child with lifelong tools to cope with anxiety is crucial. By incorporating grounding techniques, providing support, maintaining a calm demeanour, respecting their feelings, encouraging open communication, promoting a balanced diet, and establishing a routine, you empower your child to overcome anxiety and develop resilience for the future.

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