How Do I Help My Child with Anxiety: 10 Tips
How Do I Help My Child with Anxiety Related to Coronavirus or COVID-19
So you are wondering, “How do I help my son with anxiety during Coronavirus?” or “How do I help my daughter with anxiety related to COVID-19?” As a parent, it can be overwhelming. So here are 10 quick and easy tips to start helping your son or daughter with anxiety today! You can stop worrying now. “How do I help my child with anxiety related to Coronavirus?” No really, you can stop now.
Here are 10 Quick Tips to Answer the Question: “How do I help my Child with Anxiety?”
1. Recognize their Resilience
Kids are not as fragile as we like to think! And we are not as fragile as we think! Our entire human race has survived to this point because of our remarkable resilience. So, we must recognize that there is something within us that has great strength.
Our children have tremendous minds and hearts. We recognize this from time to time when they teach US something about life. So, be looking for the strengths within your child and remind them of that strength by verbal affirmation and reassuring belief in their striving toward goodness.
Many times, we think that we have the answers that will help someone. Most of the time, we end up missing the mark or creating resentment. Think of how many times you have convinced your spouse about the “right” way to do things.
No, we need to start with listening. Admit that you don’t have all the answers, but that you may be able to help your kid IF you take the time to listen to their problems and help them find their own solution. So, first close your mouth, resist the urge to share your problem and your answers, and listen with intensity the story that your child is trying to tell (both verbally and nonverbally).
Now that you have heard what the child has to say, it is time to respond with love and kindness. Again, it does not matter how “wrong” or “right” their perspective is. We may be able to help them gain clarity later, but for now that is not the purpose.
Show the child that you care by your words and actions. Identify the child’s emotion. Are they sad? Are they mad? Are they scared? Are they happy? Then, make a statement that helps them FEEL understood. It may sound like, “Wow, you are sick and tired of having nothing to do” or “you are terrified that grandma is going to get sick” or “sheesh, you just want to be near your friends again.”
4. Be Vulnerable
The first three tips will take you a long way, so if you’ve made it this far, congratulate yourself. But if we remain in a position of authority, like the expert in the room, or if we remain distant emotionally, then our attempt to connect will not be fully received.
We must let the guard down, which can be exceedingly difficult for some of us (myself included). We must be willing to get out of our heads and into our hearts. Ask yourself, “what am I feeling about this mess?” and “how is what my child is saying affecting me emotionally?” Allow yourself to feel the emotion and show it through your words and body language. Be authentic and genuine!
5. Share your personal story
Now that you have taken the time to listen and respond to your child’s story, finally, it is time to share your own. But like we discussed in the previous point, your story cannot come off as a lecture. You probably remember the many lectures that you received from your parents, but for how many of those lectures do you remember the content. As for me, I remember the content that my mom shared emotionally far more than the lectures.
Remember that story has been used for thousands of years to transmit messages about who we are and how we got here. We can do the same to impart some resilience and lesson learned to our children. We can model for them and share, concretely, how we are managing our emotions in healthy ways.
6. Admit to powerlessness, but not pointlessness
At the end of the day, we need to recognize that we don’t fully have it under control either. Even though I know we like to think that we have it under control – and sometimes we may even fool others into thinking that too – we are truly powerless when it comes to most things in life. And it doesn’t help our kids any when we go on perpetuating a lie that we are invincible.
Share with your kids how you also must rely on faith and trust. Demonstrate to them that powerlessness does not equate to defeat or to pointlessness. Allow them to see that we manage the things that are given to us to manage but leave all the rest to God. As Jesus shared with the disciples in Luke 12:
Can any of you by worrying add a moment to your lifespan?
7. Model self-care and stumbling to find the right coping strategy
Demonstrate for your children that you must care for yourself. Many of us have heard of the airplane analogy of putting your own mask before helping another with theirs. But this does not go far enough. God has entrusted you with this body, mind, and spirit. We have the responsibility to care for ourselves, because we are of infinite value in the eyes of God. Intrinsic to each of us is immense worth regardless of our circumstances.
So, allow your children to see your care for yourself in order that your children may learn that they must take care of themselves. Let them see you make mistakes and corrections to find what works for you. They need to know that taking care of ourselves can be a process of trial and error. That what works for one person may not work for another.
8. Encourage and be hopeful
Your children will mess up. I know. Shocking. However, we must keep our focus on the character being built instead of the quality of the outcome. It is easy to get caught up in failure and “success,” but success has little to do with the achievement and far more to do with the good work. You sow what you reap. So, spend more time acknowledging to efforts and frequent stumbling toward success rather than the setbacks and fumbles, themselves.
Be hopeful that we will get through the Coronavirus. Be hopeful that we will have grown in virtue during this time of trial. Be hopeful that the present darkness will only intensify the light.
9. Make a consistent routine
Kids thrive on routine. We see this when the kids transition from school to break and back again. They need expectations and boundaries. Kids naturally push boundaries as a process of growth and progress. But if we do not set expectations with boundaries and routines. Kids will not know the heights to which they can fly.
Routines produce stability of mood. Routines give children a roadmap of behavior. And most importantly, routines create safety to process difficult emotions.
10. Find reasons to laugh and share it when possible
I don’t know about you, but I get tired of hearing about the news. I can only take so much of a serious endeavor, even if it is a good one. So, every now and again, I need a laugh!
Laughter is one of the best ways to manage stress and it improves our health. Whoever said “laughter is the best medicine” was right! Find a reason to laugh and share it with others. Just be careful about when you try to joke…nobody likes a poorly timed joke.
That is all I have for now, so until next time. Enjoy the love of your life. I hope that you now know the answer to the question, “How do I help my child with anxiety?” If you don’t want to miss the great content that is coming out, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on social media. If you think your son or daughter needs some extra help, give us a call and we will do a free 15-minute phone consultation. You may also want to check out our post on Telehealth Counseling in the Age of Coronavirus or Abba Healing Services and the COVID-19 Response.
Ethan D. Bennett | Owensboro Counselor
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