Are you a parent struggling to support your child with anxiety? Are you unsure of how to support them when they are overwhelmed? Are you always trying to push your kid into going to social events but they would rather stay home? Does your child experience great distress in social situations? Does your child get paralyzed by a desire/an internal pressure to be perfect?
If any of these ring true then know that you are not alone. With an estimated 25% of teens struggling with anxiety, parents are trying/scrambling to figure out how to raise children who are feeling overwhelmed with anxiety and being held back from reaching their goals/help their child cope with crippling anxiety that is holding them back from achieving their goals. As a parent, it can be difficult to know what to say or do in these situations. Here are some tips that may be helpful the next time your child becomes anxious.
“Anxiety disorders are the most common of all mental illnesses and affect 25 percent of all teens and 30 percent of all teen girls” (1).
Three Tips for Supporting Your Child with Anxiety
#1: Allow them the space to be Anxious:
As a parent without anxiety, it can be frustrating when a solution appears obvious, but your child’s behavior seems illogical. Remember to give your child space to be anxious. Rushing them to make a decision or fix a problem will only exacerbate their anxiety. Your child may struggle with feeling inadequate and fear they are letting others down by having anxiety. Allowing your child to take their time will help them take ownership of their problem-solving process.
#2: Validate their worry:
“It’s just not that big of a deal.” Do you find yourself saying this to your child? While phrases like this can easily slip out without much thought, this can be a detrimental message to your child with anxiety. In that moment, your child may interpret that you are minimizing their emotions instead of the magnitude of the situation. They may feel that they are unimportant or even broken because they cannot seem to function like everyone else. With such a large population of kids and teens (estimated 25%) struggling with anxiety, it is clear that this is a common issue and should be addressed with care. Great ways to encourage your child the next time they become anxious about a problem may be to use phrases such as, “I can see you’re feeling anxious, but I know you can get through this and I am always here to support you.”
#3: Don’t push them into social situations:
As much as you may want your child to interact more with peers, pressuring them into social situations only increases their anxiety. Your child may fear being rejected or bullied by classmates or neighbors for their anxiety, and avoid opening up and letting others in. Of course, there is nothing wrong with encouraging your child to engage, but allowing them to decline increases their sense of control, and will likely lessen their anxiety. When your child is ready to initiate socially, they will. Give them time.
Anxiety among kids and teens is becoming increasingly common. However, its prevalence does not make parenting easier. If you are feeling alone in this, there is help for you. Check back next week for Part Two when we discuss supporting your child when anxiety prevents them from doing the things they want to do.