Growing up, I was a very anxious child! So nervous all the time that I developed a stomach spasm and a nervous cough. I hated going to school and being away from mom. I hated trying new things. At sleepovers I would get so sick with anxiety that I would have to call my mom at midnight to come pick me up because I just couldn't do it.
I thank God every day for my mother. She didn't let my anxiety determine my life. Instead, she made me push through the fear and do what I was on my way to do. I learned that there was nothing to fear and was able to put that experience under my belt so it became easier and easier for me to beat my anxiety.
Until I was a teenager, my anxiety controlled my emotions and my brain but luckily I had adults around me that knew it was just anxiety and not pushing past it would never allow me to grow out of it.
Now that I'm a mom of my own anxious children, I have the opportunity to instill helpful coping skills in them early. Hopefully, I can nip their anxiety in the bud so they can go on to be confident and brave.
Here's how to handle anxiety without nurturing it:
Don't downplay your child's feelings. Listen and acknowledge their fears, but then reassure them that there is nothing to be afraid of. Teach them what anxiety is and explain that it doesn't serve them. If they want to grow into brave and confident people, they can't let anxiety win. Make anxiety the bad guy instead of what the anxiety is claiming to be bad.
2. Don't Run Away From Fears
Backing out or avoiding situations that cause anxiety only allows the anxiety to continue to grow and flourish. Instead, encourage and support your child to face their fears. Have them sit through the dentist appointment, don't let them back out of a sport they said they wanted to sign up for but want to bail on last minute. Build their confidence and prove their anxiety wrong by facing the fear.
3. Calm Down Techniques
Teach them some tools to put into their tool belt when they feel their anxiety coming on
Slow and steady breathing- In 4 counts, out 4 counts.
Mantras- "Anxiety is just a feeling", "I will feel better soon enough", "Worrying is a waste of my energy", "I am safe".
Sip water or suck on ice
Listen to music
Write down fears in a journal
4. Problem Solve
Teach your child how to come up with solutions for what could go wrong. If they know they are prepared for the worst, then what is there left to be afraid of. You could ask them, "what are you afraid of happening?". And then take it from there by asking them how they might respond in the event it does happen. They need to learn to be stronger and wiser than their anxiety. Positive and strong thoughts need to be able to replace the fearful, anxious thoughts.
Listen to my podcast episode, "Raising Worry Monsters" down below!
You can also find Turks and Chaos on Itunes.