May 25, 2015 — that’s the specific date my daughter’s anxieties began seemingly from out of nowhere. Just before bed that night, she expressed worry about getting the stomach virus that was spreading in her classroom.
The anxieties spread to worrying every ache and sniffle, constantly washing hands to avoid germs. Next concerns about schoolwork and social nuances at school developed. Insomnia set in, as did endless conversations that began with her asking, “What if?” Like a sweater, I was watching my 10-year-old daughter unravel right before my eyes.
Fast forward 14 months, and my now 11-year-old still suffers from anxiety, but she and our family are managing it much better. Here are nine tips that are helping, and might help you, too!
1. Remind Yourself That It’s Not Their Fault
My daughter doesn’t want to be anxious. Blaming someone for having anxiety is like holding a diabetic at fault for their inability to process sugars.
2. Allow Yourself Permission to Be Frustrated
Even accidents make people upset. Frustration is an emotion that needs to be allowed.
3. Try to Not Get Upset in Front of Them
When I feel frustrations mounting, I take a walk or find a quiet place away by myself.
4. Find Mutually Agreeable Time-Out Terms
When I say, “I need some space. I’m walking away,” that’s a signal to my daughter that I feel myself getting upset and need some time alone to cool down. She has a similar time-out term with me. We both respect what these phrases mean.
5. Let Them Talk
Sometimes people just need to be heard. When my daughter’s anxieties first began, I would immediately squelch the conversation to avoid her getting upset. I’m realizing that there are times when allowing her to talk through the situation works best.
6. Don't Tell Them They're Being Irrational
The last thing an anxious person wants to hear is that their fears make no sense. To my daughter, they are very real and I need to respect that.
7. Seek Outside Help
We, as a family, benefited greatly when my daughter began seeing a counselor who is helping her develop relaxation techniques, rational thinking strategies, and coping mechanisms.
8. Admit Your Own Anxieties
Studies have shown that anxiety is inherited. When I look at my daughter, I see myself at her age. Sharing this helps her feels better, knowing that even in her family, she’s not alone.
9. Recognize That Anxiety May Likely Be a Lifelong Struggle
We’re no longer searching for a “quick fix” to heal our daughter. Coping and managing are terms that we now successfully use.
I’m sharing these tips not as a child psychologist, but as a mom to an anxious child. If you see your child with anxious tendencies, talk to her doctor (the first step we took). Talk to her teachers or school counselor. Talk to other parents. There are ways of working through it.