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  • Writer's pictureFiona Murray

10 Tips to Help Your Child When They Are Anxious

Updated: May 19, 2020

Things you can do to Help

Here are few tips for helping your child to cope with anxiety without making it worse.

1. Don't try to eliminate anxiety; try to help a child manage it. The best way to help children overcome anxiety is to help them learn to tolerate it as well as they can. Over time the anxiety will diminish.

2. Don't avoid things just because they make a child anxious. Helping children avoid the things they are afraid of will make them feel better in the short term, but it reinforces the anxiety over the long run.

3. Express positive—but realistic—expectations. Don't promise a child that what the fears won't happen—that you know they won't fail the test—but do express confidence that they'll be able to manage whatever happens.

4. Respect the feelings, but don't empower them. Validating feelings doesn't mean agreeing with them. So, if a child is terrified about going to the doctor, listen and be empathetic, but encourage them to feel that they can face their fears. 5. Don't ask leading questions. Encourage your child to talk about their feelings, but try not to ask leading questions: "Are you anxious about the big test?” Instead, ask open-ended questions: "How are you feeling about the science test?" 6. Don't reinforce the child's fears. Avoid suggesting, with your tone of voice or body language: "Maybe this is something that you should be afraid of."

7. Be encouraging. Let your child know that you appreciate how hard they are working to manage their feelings, and remind them that the more they tolerate the anxiety, the more it will diminish. 8. Try to keep the anticipatory period short. When we're afraid of something, the hardest time is before we do it. So, if a child is nervous about going to a doctor's appointment, don't discuss it until you need to. 9. Think things through with the child. Sometimes it helps to talk through what would happen if a fear came true—how would your child handle it? For some children, having a plan can reduce the uncertainty in a healthy, effective way. 10. Try to model healthy ways of handling anxiety. Don't pretend that you don't experience stress and anxiety, but do let children hear or see you managing it calmly, tolerating it and feeling good about getting through it. It's also healthy to let them know that it's alright to seek professional support.

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