Helping a child with anxiety
When a child is frightened by something, parents often seek to lead him away from the source of danger. This makes sense if the child was frightened by something really dangerous (for example, if he saw a stray dog on the street or crosses the road with busy traffic), as it will teach the child in the future to recognize what is dangerous.
But what if the child was afraid of something absolutely harmless (for example, a flying plane, sleep in the room itself or go to school)? What if anxiety prevents a child from achieving life goals or just living a full life?
It is possible to help the child to avoid all sources of fear, and from this he will feel relief. However, this relief is temporary. In fact, indulging children’s anxieties reinforces fear in the long run. In such situations, children learn that they are not able to cope with their own anxieties and that they are really threatened if they feel fear.
But as parents correctly behave in such situations? Many parents want to teach the child courage in situations that cause him anxiety and fear. Let’s consider what can be done for this purpose.
Show your child an example of bravery
Seeing a child suffer can be unbearable for parents, and they themselves feel no less anxious. It should be remembered that parents are the main role model for the child. Therefore, if you show courage in the presence of a child, most likely, he will follow your example.
By showing your child courage by example, you can also recognize his feelings and show empathy. For example, tell your child, “I know you’re nervous about going to school tomorrow for the first time. The first day can be difficult.” If a child is allowed to Express his or her anxiety freely, he or she will gain confidence more quickly.
The child learns courage and calmness when watching you in different situations. For example, when in the store you ask the seller to help you or when you keep calm in the car, standing in traffic or being late for an important meeting.
Find out the cause of concern
Anxiety and anxiety of the child can be transmitted to all family members and further cause stress. Sometimes parents ‘ stress can be expressed in an unintentional accusation (“the Child can’t eat at school because he’s worried”). Such statements implicitly suggest that the child is to blame for being anxious. By changing your statements (“anxiety makes it difficult for a child to eat at school”), you recognize that anxiety is caused by external factors, and the child is not to blame for them.
Look your fears in the face
The main rule of getting rid of anxiety (as well as the main rule of cognitive behavioral therapy) is to live your fear. In other words, you need to face your fears. It may seem paradoxical, but when we are in a situation that causes us anxiety, we should stay in it, not avoid it. Then gradually our anxiety diminishes. This is how we learn to deal with negative emotions.
When faced with their fears, the child learns that the outcome of the situation may not be as terrible as he imagined. For example, a child worries about separation from his parents. If he is left alone, first for a short time, and then – for a longer time, he will understand that his fears were not justified (nothing bad happened to his parents or to himself). Also, the child will understand that his anxiety is a temporary phenomenon, weakening with each new time.
Use positive reinforcement
To motivate a child to face their fears, parents can encourage them to try to do so. Positive reinforcement means that you reward (praise, positive evaluation, or financial incentives) in cases where the child demonstrates the desired behavior. This motivates the child to demonstrate this behavior in the future.
Positive reinforcement can be expressed in many forms – such as verbal praise. This is especially effective when you sincerely admire the behavior of the child, focus on what exactly you liked and Express praise immediately after the child has made the desired action (for example ,” you’re good that the first spoke to a stranger to you”, and not just: “well Done”). So the child will be able to understand what exactly in his behavior you liked. All the efforts a child makes to face his fears are praiseworthy.
Change is always difficult for a child. In this case, he may need the help of parents, and sometimes a child psychologist.