When a child is experiencing anxiety problems (or an anxiety disorder), there is no way around it. The anxiety problem exists, even it is only perceived by the child and perceived by others as an irrational response to something that is not real.
Children often feel ashamed or vulnerable as they do not understand why they are feeling the way they feel. Often, kids feel misunderstood by others and therefore they may also feel isolated. Many children feel that the best way to face anxiety is to rely on avoidance as well as to ask their parents/caregivers for help.
The major challenge in dealing with anxiety is learning about how to cope. Children often do not believe they can learn how to manage their own anxious thoughts. They, therefore, rely on their parents to protect them from the received threats that make childhood anxiety feel so real.
Another major challenge for children who are anxious is understanding that the willingness to experience anxiety and then to reflect on that experience is something we all need to learn. This is the same for many kinds of discomfort. At first, we may feel anxious, however, after trying a few times, the behaviour seems to come naturally and the anxiety flows away.
In general, anxiety diminishes on its own over time, but only if the child wants to see it this way. If your child is stuck and completely overwhelmed, then naturally the child will try very hard to stay away from anything that causes anxiety.
Parents play an essential role in teaching children to accept their feelings. On the other hand, parents also have to understand that their own acceptance of childhood anxiety can either be a barrier or a solution. Let’s say for example that a child is anxious about bugs in the backyard, and therefore the child does not want to play outside. If the parent continuously tells the child to stop being silly of small little bugs or says that it is so childish to be afraid of bugs, how do you think the child will feel accepted or supported?
Accepting childhood anxiety is all about listening to what your child has to say, and then adjusting the words you speak, even if your inside voice says something else.
Acceptance of childhood anxiety is one part of the supportive role parents can play to manage childhood anxiety at home. In the next short article, we will look at the second part of the supportive role: confidence.