Childhood can be tough for a lot of kids. Things like peer pressure and a world where kids are pushed academically from a young age can lead to anxiety about school, friendships, and a multitude of other things. It can be really hard as a parent to see your child struggling with anxiety. You want to help them, but you don’t have the right tools. The good news is that there are various things parents can do to help a child with anxiety.
Be A Supportive Parent
It’s easy to fall into the trap of wanting our kids to achieve great things while ignoring what they actually want. Just because you’d love it if your child excels at sports because that’s what you were good at in school, it doesn’t mean your child has the aptitude or the inclination to enjoy sports.
It’s important to be a supportive, empathetic parent. Listen to your children when they are anxious about something. Don’t dismiss their concerns. If they say they don’t want to go to school, instead of launching into a tirade because they’re making you late for work, find out why they are anxious. It may be that they are being bullied or they are struggling with lessons.
Validate your child’s feelings and emotions. Sit down and listen to them without judging them. Let them know it’s OK to be anxious, even if there isn’t a legitimate reason. Knowing you support them will help them deal with their anxiety.
Teach Your Child Coping Skills
An anxious child will benefit from learning coping skills. Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation can help redirect their focus away from negative thought spirals. Encourage your child to keep a journal if they are old enough, where they write down their thoughts and feelings.
Animals & Anxiety
Some children benefit from having a pet. Dogs in particular offer children unconditional love and many anxious children blossom when they have a dog to care for and love. Consider giving a home to a dog or other pet if you have the means to care for an animal and you think it will help your child.
Dogs in schools can help support anxious children in a learning environment. If your child finds school difficult, check whether the school is willing to try canine assisted learning with The Dog Mentor Programme. This innovative programme has been implemented in primary and secondary schools across the UK, with great success.
Seek Professional Help
Anxiety can have a lasting effect on a child, impacting their ability to form social connections, do well at school, and live a normal life. If anxiety is badly affecting your child, ask your GP for a referral to your local Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) team. Therapies like CBT can help challenge negative thought patterns and medications might alleviate some of the symptoms of anxiety.
Be flexible and open to trying different strategies until you find what resonates best with your child. With your guidance and support, your child can navigate their anxiety and thrive.