Anxiety is one of the most common mental health concerns for children and adults, affecting upwards of 20% of children and adolescents over the lifespan. This ongoing and excessive fear can begin to cause considerable distress or interference in everyday life. It can prevent them from engaging in age-appropriate activities or meeting expected developmental milestones. It is this combination of excessive anxiety and disruption in life that helps us understand that anxiety is no longer normal and has become a problem.
At Healing Path Counselling Services, we see anxiety impacting the lives of children, teens (and adults!), in the following 6 ways:
Affect: Emotionally and physically–what we feel in our body
Behaviour: Behaviorally–what we do or our actions, such as avoiding or seeking-reassurance
Cognition: Mentally–what goes through our mind like worrisome thoughts
Dependence: Relying on parents–what happens over time is that children and teens depend too much on their parents
Excess and Extreme: Anxiety is a problem when it is excessive and extreme in relation to the situation
Functioning: How your child manages each day
As a parent, remember that you are the most important person in your child’s life. Although it can be frustrating for the entire family to deal with an anxious child, your child needs a loving but encouraging parent to help support them through the process of learning to cope and conquer their anxiety.
When children are chronically anxious, even the most well-meaning parents can fall into a negative cycle and, not wanting a child to suffer, actually exacerbate the youngster’s anxiety. It happens when parents, anticipating a child’s fears, try to protect them from them. Here are some pointers for helping children escape the cycle of anxiety:
- The goal isn’t to eliminate anxiety, but to help a child manage it.
- Don’t avoid things just because they make a child anxious.
- Express positive—but realistic—expectations.
- Don’t ask leading questions.
- Don’t reinforce the child’s fears.
- Encourage the child to tolerate their anxiety.
- Try to keep the anticipatory period short. When we’re afraid of something, the hardest time is really before we do it
- Think things through with the child.
- Try to model healthy ways of handling anxiety.
Anxiety is part of life. Trying to eliminate anxiety from your child’s life is almost impossible. Since anxiety is everywhere, one of the greatest gifts you can give your anxious child or teen is the confidence and skill to tolerate anxiety whenever it occurs, and to continue living his/her life anyway.
If this is something that you would like assistance with, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Healing Path Counselling Services.
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