5 Tips on Working with an Anxious Child

Anxiety. Mood disorder. Special Needs. It’s all fine within your own household, you see we learn to deal with our children in a way that works for them. Society, on the other hand, has zero tolerance for people who don’t fit their mold of what they think to be the norm. I am at the point where I am about sick of being stared at every single time my child is having a difficult day due to either a medication change or simply just having an off day. When my son has an off day, it’s unlike my other two children because he has a mood disorder and anxiety; this makes an off day for him closer to the end of the world mentality. It’s normal for him, it’s not so normal for others. With that being said, there are simple ways to work with a child who has anxiety, and yes people, anxiety is a real disorder that sometimes keeps people from going outside of their house because it’s too painful to go outside of their comfort zone.

I was that person. I have anxiety and every day, even at age 32, it’s still a struggle to get out and mingle with society without having first prepped my brain for it. I have to literally talk myself into going out in public some days and while it’s become my norm at 32 years of age, it wasn’t always my norm. Talking yourself into being part of society when you suffer from major anxiety takes a lot of strength and determination as well as motivation, all three things my seven year old may have but not with a true understanding of how he works best. With that being said I decided to create this list of ways to work with an anxious child …. to help you work with an anxious child at a level that makes sense for the child and will help them blossom in time.

5 Tips to Work with Anxious Children

  1. Be Firm, Yet Understanding – Remind your child that you understand and feel for what he/she is going through, allow their feelings to be validated but be firm in your tone, not stern, so that the child realizes “this person means business” but doesn’t feel more anxious & overwhelmed with the demands from said adult.
  2. Encourage but Do not Force – As my son’s counselor told me, “there is a fine line between encouraging and forcing”. It’s vitally important for the growth of an anxious child to encourage them to continue on in life as is their norm without the anxiety attack. Do not allow anxiety to take over your child, but also don’t drag them kicking and screaming if encouragement doesn’t work. It’s not the end of the world if anxiety has overcome your child to the point that he/she doesn’t want to partake in a certain situation and forcing will only increase anxious feelings. Try again next time.
  3. Don’t Use Logic with an Irrational Thought Pattern – Anxiety is a completely irrational fear of society or situations, therefore you cannot try to use logic or rational reasoning with a child who is having an anxiety attack. They are in a different place where, in their own mind, their fear in this moment makes sense to them. 
  4. Listen to The Child Speak – This is a very important tip, you should listen to an anxious child speak fully. Allow the child to explain to you exactly what they are thinking and feeling during their anxiety attack. This helps two things; it helps you understand what is going on inside of their head so you can better assist them in moving forward and it helps them get whatever they are feeling off of their mind allowing them to have a better chance at overcoming this anxiety attack.
  5. Prepare The Child for What’s to Come – Anxious children really like to know what is going to happen next, most times children will automatically assume that x,y,z is going to happen. When x.y,z doesn’t happen in that order or doesn’t happen at all, then they are bound to have an anxiety attack. Anxious children like to have a routine and a schedule, while they are adaptable to changes in their routines, they must be prepared for those changes. Do your best to prepare an anxious child for their “what’s next” on the agenda, so as to avoid a full blown anxiety attack.

 If you follow the 5 Tips on Working with an Anxious child above, I firmly believe that you will be on your way to greener pastures with your anxious child.

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