Anxiety can be a tough emotion to manage. It can leave children feeling as if something bad is going to happen to them. As a parent, it can be incredibly difficult to know how to help your child navigate through his or her emotions.
There are three primary types of anxiety.
Situational anxiety occurs when a child’s life has changed. Maybe your child is going to school for the first time or has changed classes or teachers, and this situation has left the child feeling unsure of himself. It can be very helpful to walk a child through an experience to provide him the support that he needs. When situations occur that are spontaneous; parents getting a divorce, the death of a grandparent, a friend who moves away, the best tool to utilize when a child is dealing with spontaneous change is to check in with him about his feelings and normalize them. Send your child positive messages that he will get through the change because he has lots of tools to get him through there day. You might remind your child that his skateboarding is a great way to work out his worries. Or he can read Bible verses that will remind him that he is not alone. You can tell him that he is a good friend and that you will help him to invite new kids to the house so that he can get to know them better. Parents can share how they worked through similar issues in their own life and how these situations have made them stronger.
Generalized anxiety is a condition whereby anxiety is present most of the time. There may be a genetic component in generalized anxiety, in that we oftentimes see children who have relatives who are also prone to this type of anxiety. If your child tends to be nervous, worries about past, present, and future events, it can be helpful to allow them to have special transitional objects that may make the worry feel more manageable. Kids with generalized anxiety benefit from having worry stones that they can keep in their pocket and rub during the day when they feel particularly nervous. Transitional objects like blankets, stuffed animals, and pictures can also be helpful in making the child feel more secure with their anxiety. Having a special time to discuss a child’s concern can allow him an opportunity to know that he will be able to externalize his feelings. Parents can teach a child that talking about feelings allows him to get the worries out of the body and mind. It presupposes that a child will have less anxiety about a situation or event.
Separation anxiety effects children who fear separating from you. It can be painful to watch a child who does not want to be left at daycare or school. The child fears that something will happen to you and they will lose you permanently. Helping your child to transition may require that you spend extra time with your child in the classroom or providing incentives of special walks or video time together after the transition back home. Your child will grow out of this so stay patient and confident.
You are instrumental in helping your child process his or her feelings. Make sure to attend to the feelings by brainstorming ways to make them feel smaller, easier, or more manageable. You can be one of the greatest tools to helping your child manage anxiety.