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  • Take Anxiety in Kids Seriously Because It Has Become More Common Than You Think

    Remember to reassure your child that you are to listen to and help him.
    by Kate Borbon .
Take Anxiety in Kids Seriously Because It Has Become More Common Than You Think
PHOTO BY iStock
  • Like it or not, anxiety is an issue that can affect individuals of all circumstances, including children. According to the National Health Service (NHS), toddlers may go through a period of anxiety whenever they are separated from their parents or guardians. Preschoolers, meanwhile, may develop fears of specific things, like animals, storms, and the dark. Going to a brand new school and being in the company of strangers can bring anxiety.

    The NHSemphasizes this tendency to feel anxious over different things is an entirely normal part of a child’s development, and these worries usually go away after some time. However, it is possible for some of these anxieties and fears to develop into something more severe that they begin to get in the way of the child’s everyday life.

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    How to help children deal with anxiety

    According to the NHS, when anxiety becomes severe, it can begin to harm a child’s mental and emotional health — he might become withdrawn and his confidence and self-esteem can take a hit. Before it becomes a more persistent and challenging health issue, be ready to help your child handle his worries and fears by himself. Here are some tips you can consider to help him (they are helpful for grown-ups, too!).

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    Listen

    Often, when we feel overcome by intense feelings and emotions, we don’t quite know how to deal with it — all we want is someone who will listen to us. Small children who are dealing with big emotions can benefit from this as well. Even if your little one doesn’t feel like talking, it can be encouraging for him to simply have you by his side, reminding him that you love him, care for him, and are willing to help him out.

    Validate your child’s emotions

    Aside from listening to your child’s feelings, it is essential to let him know that you respect what he is going through. Simple phrases like “You’re feeling scared, and that is okay” can help. Still, the Child Mind Institute reminds parents that validating their child’s emotions does not equate to agreeing with them since this might only amplify his fears and make his anxiety much more challenging to address.

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    “You want to listen and be empathetic, help her understand what she’s anxious about, and encourage her to feel that she can face her fears,” the Institute says. “The message you want to send is, ‘I know you’re scared, and that’s okay, and I’m here, and I’m going to help you get through this.’”

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    Provide distractions

    Your child is not likely to calm down right away when he is overcome by anxiety. A quick distraction, such as a short stroll around your neighborhood, playing a favorite game of his, or just a simple cuddling session, can help him calm down so he can deal with his feelings, aside from being a way to shower him with much-needed TLC.

    Help your child process his fears

    Have a conversation with your little one about whatever is worrying him. For older kids, the NHS suggests explaining anxiety and its physical effects on people. Don’t forget to reassure and remind him that you love and care for him.

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    Encourage your child to learn the coping strategies that work for him

    As much as you may want to spare your child the possibility of experiencing things that can trigger his anxiety, it is helpful for him to learn how to deal with his fears on his own. After all, always swooping in to help your child out whenever he encounters any difficult situation might only end up making him dependent on you. It also robs him of the opportunity to develop a sense of resilience in the face of challenges.

    The Child Mind Institute says that for some kids, it can help to have a game plan. For example, if your child is worried you won’t be coming to pick him up after school, you can help him think about what he should do if you don’t show up to take him home.

    “None of us wants to see a child unhappy, but the best way to help kids overcome anxiety isn’t to try to remove stressors that trigger it,” the Institute writes. “It’s to help them learn to tolerate their anxiety and function as well as they can, even when they’re anxious. As a byproduct of that, the anxiety will decrease or fall away over time.”

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    Model how to handle anxiety

    As a parent, the way you cope with your fears and worries can serve as your child’s template. For this reason, experts suggest embracing healthy methods of coping with anxiety, such as taking some quiet alone time, meditation or yoga, or remaining calm instead of lashing out.

    Seek professional help

    If you think that your child’s anxiety might be starting to interfere with his daily life, it would be a good idea to seek the advice of a mental health professional. Experts can help your child talk about and deal with the things that are triggering his anxiety.

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