Childhood is often idealized as a carefree time without worries. However, it’s important to realize that children experience anxiety, just like adults. The good news is, you can help your child better handle anxiety. In the video above, Nicholas J. Westers, Psy.D., clinical psychologist at Children’s Health℠ and Assistant Professor at UT Southwestern, shares five ways you can help your child with anxiety:
- Recognize when your child is feeling anxious. It’s easy to recognize anxiety when your child is clearly panicking. But sometimes, anxiety is not as obvious. When a child shows signs of irritability, anger and oppositional behaviors, it may also signal anxiety.
- Remind them anxiety is natural. Validating to your child that it’s normal to experience anxiety is the first step in helping them cope. You can say, “I sense that you’re feeling anxious, and that’s okay.”
- Remain calm. Your actions influence your child, so it’s important to remain calm. Our children feed off our own anxieties, so if we portray that, it can make them more anxious. We want to make sure they can look to us as a safe place — someone who is consistent and calm.
- Teach relaxation techniques. Have your child try deep breathing when they feel anxious — teach them to take a deep breath, count to eight and release. You can also teach them to picture a peaceful place where they felt calm, such as a favorite family vacation spot or a cozy corner of their room.
- Speak to a professional if anxiety persists. If your child continues to experience significant anxiety, or if anxiety interferes with their day-to-day functioning, talk with your pediatrician or a mental health professional about additional options to help your child.