Having anxiety can be really tough for our little ones, and it’s tough for parents as well. Here are a few simple ways you can provide your child with some support during those harder moments:
- Validate their feelings, even if you don’t quite understand where it’s coming from. If any of you have ever experienced anxiety in the past, I’m sure we can agree that it doesn’t always “make sense.” That’s ok. We don’t need to fully understand the why, as long as we can acknowledge the emotions. Try saying to your child, “I understand what it’s like to be scared. Tell me about what’s making you nervous right now.” Let them know they have a safe space to talk about what they’re experiencing.
- Distract. Find something to take your child’s mind off of what’s worrying them. For example, if you’ll have to wait some time for a doctor’s appointment that they’re nervous about, bring along an activity to keep their mind occupied, or bring up a game on your phone you both can play.
- Make a cope ahead plan. Not only does it open up a space for your child to talk about the situations that scare them, but it gives them (and you) the opportunity to think ahead about what might help them get through it. Going back to our doctor’s appointment example, your child can think ahead while they are calm to develop a list of items or activities to use while they are waiting for their appointment.
- Practice relaxation skills together. Chances are, these skills will come up as you create the cope ahead plan. Practice relaxation techniques with your child while they are calm, then they will be even more effective when they are practiced during these high stress times.
- Finally, connect. Tell your child about a time when you were scared and how you got through it successfully. Not only will this validate what they are experiencing, but it will also build that connection between you two and let them know you are a safe person to talk to, if needed.