Having an anxious child can certainly come with its challenges, but it’s important to help your child with their anxiety. When left untreated, their anxiety can impact both their physical and emotional health. This can cause long term effects well into their adulthood. If you’re struggling to help your child or adolescent cope with anxiety, the following tips can be helpful:
Eliminating vs. Managing
The best way to help your child in the long run with their anxiety is to teach them to manage their anxiety, not eliminate what makes them feel anxious. As a parent, we tend to do all we can to make sure our child is happy, but sometimes this desire can lead to enabling them. By eliminating what makes them anxious, you’re not allowing them to learn how to deal with it. Eliminating teaches them that what makes them anxious simply goes away, which is simply not true. Teaching them to manage their anxiety will allow them to learn how to tolerate and adapt.
Validate Their Fears
Telling your child “there’s nothing to be afraid of” is not as helpful as you believe it be. Fear can be very useful – it is healthy to have fear when approaching the edge of a cliff! Saying things such as this leaves them feeling invalidated for being anxious. It’s essential to validate your child’s fears by understanding that their fear is real and not irrational. Tell them that you understand that they’re feeling anxious and then help them to get to the root of their anxiousness. When your child knows that you respect their fears and why they’re feeling anxious, they’ll be much more comfortable letting you help them face those fears in the future.
Although most parents don’t like to hear this: you can’t always be there for your child. Especially for children with anxiety, it’s imperative to help them develop coping strategies for when you’re not there to help them. Helpful strategies for when they’re feeling anxious can be breathing exercises or finding calming activities such as listening to music, writing, and learning to focus on other things to reduce the intensity of their anxiety.
Also, when you’re with them, and they’re anxious – be it for climbing high on Monkey bars, open water swimming, catching public transport for the first time – help talk them through it. Encourage them to (safely) complete the task they are doing under your supervision. Then, after they’ve done it, and they know they can do it, and you have demonstrated the risks and what they can do, they have memories and emotions that can carry them forward successfully into the future.
ABOUT DR LACHLAN SOPER
Based in Mosman, Sydney, Australia, Dr Lachlan Soper, a general practitioner, spends much of his free time cycling through his community and country. Like so many others, Lachlan’s love for cycling started during childhood. Borrowing a bike from his friends, he would spend hours riding through the local streets, never tiring of the joy and fun cycling brought him.
Decades later, Dr Lachlan Soper’s enjoyment of cycling hasn’t diminished one bit. On average, he rides three to five times a week and approximately 10k kilometres per year. He loves that, unlike walking or riding in a car, cycling trips can be taken at one’s own pace and, when participating in group rides, he has the opportunity to meet so many others and hear their stories. To date, his bike has taken him all over the country, including through the Victorian Alps, the New South Wales Snowy Mountains, and from Melbourne to Sydney twice. In addition to cycling for personal goals, Lachlan has also participated in a myriad of charity rides.
Lachlan Soper also appreciates that cycling affords him another way to stay active and healthy for his family—it even provides another way to spend time with his children. His three children, aged six to ten, are an active bunch. They spend the majority of their days jumping on the trampoline, perfecting their flips, playing tennis, swimming, and generally doing anything they can as long as it’s outside. As a group, Lachlan and his children take regular rides through bike paths around Sydney Harbour, around it’s lakes and coastline.
About the Creator
Dr Lachlan Soper, based in Mosman, Sydney, Australia, is a General Practitioner at Avenue Road Medical Practice. Lachlan Soper is a caring general practitioner to his patients, a committed cyclist, and a father to his three children.