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When we see our children struggling with anxious behaviors and not being able to help them in the moment, it can be hard. Here we want to provide a few Do’s and Don’ts on how to help keep anxiety low in the household and hopefully help you and your child.
First let’s talk about what is NOT helpful during a highly anxious time. First, avoid giving excessive reassurance that everything will work out and be okay. It is a natural tendency to reassure and fix things. When your child is highly anxious, the constant reassurance will hinder them from building their own self-confidence that they can handle the situation themselves. Secondly, don’t try to take control of the situation away from your child. Anxiety can increase we when feel we do not have control of the outcome in situations, therefore try to give as much control and decision making to your child. Third, don’t allow your child to avoid. By allowing the child to avoid school, friends, or anxious event it may enforce that there is something to worry about surrounding that situation. Fourth, don’t give up on patience too quickly when your child is showing their anxiety. Though it may feel like the behaviors of excessive anxiety may be problematic, your child is stating something is wrong. Remain as calm as possible. Lastly, try not to model anxious behaviors in front of your children. When children can see or feel anxious behaviors coming from parents, it can increase their own.
So what CAN be helpful for your child and your household? First, do reward the non-anxious and courageous behaviors you want to see continue. You may create a chart or just give small rewards or encouragement when you see your child overcome anxious behaviors. Secondly, ignore the behaviors you don’t want to encourage to encourage. The may take an adjustment for your child to get use to, but do not give notice to the behaviors that could be attention seeking or anxious behaviors that your child could handle by themselves. Third, help your child practice and use the coping skills that they have learned. Even if they know how to use them they may lack the confidence at first. Practicing the tools is key! Lastly, continue to model the coping skills and brave behaviors that you want your child to show. As we know, children are always watching our movements and modeling can be powerful. Continue to be patience and always reach out when extra support is needed.