Note to Readers: High anxiety children are caught in a cycle. Well-meaning parents can create unnecessary fear and anxiety for their children as they navigate their quest to be great parents. Over validation of every little concern and excessive preparation for minor experiences can perpetuate more of the very emotions parents are looking to minimize. Thanks to Ryan for sharing his tips based on his own personal experience as a high anxiety child.
by Ryan Rivera
In the past, childhood anxiety was considered a normal part of development. But fear, especially prolonged fear, can actually change brain chemistry. If your child is subjected to regular fear and anxiety, they risk developing childhood anxiety disorders. Parents of these kids often believed that their children were simply nervous, and it was expected that over time these kids would grow out of it, eventually socializing with others and becoming well-rounded adults.
We now know it’s not that simple. Many kids with anxiety in their youth experience anxiety as adults, and those with high anxiety may miss out on important learning/developmental experiences that are important parts of aging.
Childhood anxiety can be tough to cure, because children are exposed to a variety of life situations that you cannot control, and how they respond to those situations is often affected by their youth. However, here are several tips for raising a child that seems to have anxiety issues that could and should help them develop better.
Tips for High Anxiety Kids
- Give Them Access to Socially Relevant Culture
Social anxiety is easily the most common type of anxiety that affects children, and one of the problems is that your child is unlikely to be adept at social skills. You want to make sure that your child doesn’t have their fears reinforced. You may be anti-TV, or anti-music, etc., but the truth is that your child will want to converse with friends that will likely be talking about these topics, and the more they know about pop culture, the easier it will be for them to get into normal conversations without flaming out and having their fears reinforced.
- Don’t Reinforce Fearful Behavior
As a parent, it’s natural to want to be loving and supportive for your child. But you may often find that you’re actually reinforcing negative behaviors. For example, if your child is fearful and anxious when you’re leaving them at daycare and they run to you crying, it’s not a good idea to pick them up, hug them, cry too, tell them it will be okay, and console them. This just reinforces that leaving them is scary.
- Reinforce Brave Behavior
While you shouldn’t reinforce fearful behavior, you obviously cannot punish your child either. Rather, when your child does something fearful you try to minimize its importance, and instead reward your child whenever they do something brave. Make sure your child knows how proud you are all the time when they’re showing signs of bravery and confidence. Over time, it will start to feel more natural for them.
- Find Them Close Friends
It may take a while, particularly if your child has high anxiety, but you should try to find them some very close friends. Studies have shown that having social support from close friends vastly improves confidence and bravery, and as your child gets older they’ll be able to leverage those friendships in such a way that they become less anxious in the process.
- Work on Your Own Anxiety
Children also pick up on social cues from their parents. If you’re an anxious person, your child is far more likely to be anxious. That’s why it’s important that you also work on your own anxiety as well. Minimize your fearful reactions to things when you’re in front of your child and try your best to relax and find calmness in your daily life.
Raising an Anxious Child
It’s difficult to cure anxiety altogether in children. Some anxiety is genetic, and others are as a result of situations beyond your control. But you can minimize the effect that anxiety has on your child’s development, and over time you can help them develop the coping strategies they need to be able to handle the anxiety and stress they deal with every day.
About the Author: Ryan Rivera has discussed anxiety with many parents, and often emphasizes the need for everyone in the family to work on their own anxiety needs. He writes about anxiety and panic at www.calmclinic.com
Giving children tangible techniques to reduce anxiety and fear is easy with stories that incorporate actual techniques. The Indigo Dreams Series offer stories, techniques, and music for every age group.