Mental Health

Parents can influence their children’s fears and anxiety

Parents can influence their children’s fears and anxiety

Elizabeth Griswold

(January 17, 2008) — Children, like adults, can feel worried or anxious, whether it’s about making friends, taking a test or simply the great unknown. Here are some things you can do to address your child’s fears and anxiety:

  • Talk about that “butterfly in the tummy” feeling. If the child can admit to feeling nervous before a class presentation, for example, it can help get those anxious feelings out of the way so that the well-prepared presentation doesn’t go awry simply due to nervousness.
  • Help your child understand when enough is enough. If your child is worried about a test, help him study until he is confident he knows the information. Then both of you should let it go. Don’t talk about it over and over. Don’t have the child study so long and hard that it becomes all-encompassing.
  • Set a good example in how you respond to stress. Children learn by what they see you do. For one thing, you can demonstrate self-control and coping skills when you are feeling stressed, such as listening to music to calm down. For another, you can identify your own anxious behaviors (for example, getting upset when things are not in perfect order) and work on bringing them under control.
  • Parents can influence their children’s fears and anxiety

    Elizabeth Griswold

    (January 17, 2008) — Children, like adults, can feel worried or anxious, whether it’s about making friends, taking a test or simply the great unknown. Here are some things you can do to address your child’s fears and anxiety:

  • Talk about that “butterfly in the tummy” feeling. If the child can admit to feeling nervous before a class presentation, for example, it can help get those anxious feelings out of the way so that the well-prepared presentation doesn’t go awry simply due to nervousness.
  • Help your child understand when enough is enough. If your child is worried about a test, help him study until he is confident he knows the information. Then both of you should let it go. Don’t talk about it over and over. Don’t have the child study so long and hard that it becomes all-encompassing.
  • Set a good example in how you respond to stress. Children learn by what they see you do. For one thing, you can demonstrate self-control and coping skills when you are feeling stressed, such as listening to music to calm down. For another, you can identify your own anxious behaviors (for example, getting upset when things are not in perfect order) and work on bringing them under control.
  • The less stress you express, the less stress they feel. Parents’ words and actions become a big predictor of their children’s anxiety levels. For example, when your kindergartener heads off to school, repeating things like, “I’ll miss you so much,” or, “I just can’t believe I won’t be seeing you all day,” can increase her separation anxiety.
  • Don’t burden your kids with your problems. Children don’t fully understand the adult world, so they shouldn’t be informed of everything that’s going on. Doing so imposes stress on them at a time when, developmentally, they have fewer coping skills. Save the talk about workplace problems or money woes until they are out of earshot.

    Contact your physician or health care practitioner if you think your child seems excessively anxious or fearful, or if the everyday strategies you try don’t help. There are many ways a professional mental health practitioner can help manage anxiety, including psychotherapy or behavior modification strategies and interventions.

    Elizabeth Griswold, MSW, is violence prevention coordinator for the Genesee Valley Health Partnership in Livingston County.

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