Being a kid is tough. They have school to worry about, peers to interact with, home life to juggle, plus all these new emotions and situations they are learning for the first time. To throw this thing called COVID-19 in the mix, mask wearing, handwashing and more can be very overwhelming for many kiddos. Some children are more prone to anxiety than others, especially in our current climate. It is important to address our children’s worries and provide them with a few tools to help minimize those anxious feelings.
No parent wants to see their child suffer. It would be wonderful if we could snap our fingers and take away the triggers to anxiety for our children, but it is not that simple. As a parent it is vital to identify what your child’s anxiety triggers are and address them. Their fears will not simply “go away” unless your child feels empowered and in control of what is ailing them.
Once you have identified what is bothering your child, how do you help them tackle these fears? One helpful technique is to encourage them but do not give them false expectations. For example: if your child has anxiety about being teased at school because of their new braces, do not set a false reality in their mind that teasing will not occur. We all know children are little people and not everyone will be kind. Instead, acknowledge their worries and identify positive coping skills to help them handle these uncomfortable situations. If a classmate mocks them for their braces, encourage your child to focus on something they really like about themselves instead. Focus on positive thinking!
Another technique is to talk through the fear with your child. Is it really going to the park that is giving them anxious thoughts or is it something else? Be open, accepting and kind. Children are less likely to open up about what is bothering them if they do not feel like they will be heard. Also, do not dismiss their fears as irrelevant. These feelings are legitimate whether the threat is real or imagined. During a routine doctor visit, it can be scary for a child to think about talking to a stranger who may give them a shot/inflict pain. This is a good time to discuss with your child why it is important and necessary to do things that may scare them.
Finally, look at your own actions and how you handle stress and anxiety. Are you likely to tense, yell, cry, etc. when life becomes difficult? We are all allowed to express ourselves freely, but as parents our little ones are always watching and taking their cues from us. Modeling healthy, positive behavior will help your child address their own fears and anxiety.
Our world is in a difficult place and we are all feeling a little on edge. Encourage your child to handle tough situations with techniques that will help them become strong, healthy adults. If you are unsure of where to start you should always consult your health care provider. They can offer great advice, as well. When your kiddo do face those fears, CELEBRATE! You are in this together!