Step 1 Provide calm support
Help your child feel safe. And don’t undermine the power of your words. When your child does confront a fear and hears your comforting, “It will be okay,” (or gets the same message from daddy holding her hand) she will feel more secure that she can deploy in other trying times. Your words of support will become a model your child can use himself. Our kids copy how we cope with our fears. So be the example of how to handle your own worries that you want your child to copy. Also, keep yourself strong. Fears are caught by children or passed down. Keep your worries or pessimism in check especially during a tragedy or after a trauma.
Step 2 Say and teach fear-reducing self-statements
Teach your child to face the fear by helping her learn to say a positive phrase. It’s best to help your child choose only one phrase and help her practice saying the same one several times a day until she can say to herself when feeling anxious. A few fear-reducers include: “I can do this.” “I can handle this.” “I will be OK.” “It’s not a big deal.” Say that statement out loud when you are experiencing a challenge so that you model to your child how to cope.
Remember to stay away from catastrophic statements. Pay attention to what you say to your kids and around them. Instead of saying “It’s really important for you to learn how to swim because it’d be devastating to me if you drowned.” State it in a positive format “It’s really important for you to learn how to swim,”.
Step 3 Help them externalize their fears
Help your child label their worries and fears as the “Worry Monster” who is a bully who is responsible for making them (and all of us) think worrisome and scary thoughts.
The Worry Monster’s job is to keep us from enjoying life. He gets joy from picking on children (and adults) and making them worried and scared. The more you talk about the Worry Monster and gang up on him with your allies, the weaker he will get and the sooner he will go away.
Step 4 Get support
Parenting a child with anxiety can be overwhelming at times. Watching your child suffer from anxiety can be painful, frustrating, and confusing. There is not one parent that hasn’t wondered at one time or another if they are the cause of their child’s anxiety. However, research shows that anxiety is often the result of multiple factors (i.e., genes, brain physiology, temperament, environmental factors, past traumatic events, etc.). Please keep in mind, you did not cause your child’s anxiety, but you can help them overcome it.
Toward the goal of a healthier life for the whole family, practice self-compassion and get support. Remember, you’re not alone, and you’re not to blame. Getting support from a professional who specializes in Anxiety Disordersm, who is there to guide and assist you, can help with making you feel less alone. www.sdpsychservices.com