Helping Your Child Cope With Anxiety


Everyone experiences stress, including children. Stress in small amounts is normal and should be an expectation. However, when it reaches dangerous levels, anxiety can set in. People usually associate anxiety with working professionals, but even children can become affected by anxiety.

According to Carolyn Mehlomakulu, LMFT-S, ATR-BC, “An anxious or angry child is in flight-or-fight mode with their body primed to handle a perceived threat.” Children are more prone to some of the effects of anxiety, considering that they are significantly less mature than adults. Having a child who suffers from anxiety can nerve-wracking for any parent. Hence, it is essential to know how it can manifest among children. Developing good parenting practices is also crucial in empowering children to cope with anxiety.

Types Of Anxiety

Several types of anxiety can affect your young ones. The major categories are listed below:

  • generalized anxiety disorder
  • separation anxiety disorder
  • social anxiety disorder
  • specific phobias

Generalized anxiety disorder increases the anxiety that kids feel when exposed to stressors. It can encompass a large portion of a child’s life, with many children feeling stressed continuously.

When anxiety is because of separation from parents and other loved ones, the condition is called separation anxiety disorder. In contrast, social interactions and the possibility of judgment by other people can also cause children to become stressed. In this case, the child has a social anxiety disorder.

Finally, children might become stressed by various phobias, which refer to an extreme fear of specific things or situations. Sometimes, even merely thinking about the object of fear can be enough to induce intense feelings of dread. Steven Kurtz, Ph.D explains that “In anxious kids, their smoke detector is set to a much more sensitive level, and they also have a much more dramatic reaction.

Properly Dealing With Anxiety


The most important point to take note of is that children should learn how to cope with their anxieties. In this case, the role of parents is to empower children so that they grow up to become mentally robust adults. Everything that parents do must help children fight anxiety, but they must never fight their children’s battles for them.


Another note is that parents need to give some form of agency to their children when it comes to dealing with anxiety. Agency here means that children should still feel that they have control over the situation. Sometimes, parents take that agency away by putting things into their own hands. While this action might be useful in the short-term, ultimately the children will remain dependent instead of taking more proactive steps.

Parents should listen intently to what their children are trying to say. Remember that anxiety disorders magnify the stress experienced by children. Parents might find it weird that their children are ticked off by seemingly trivial matters. Regardless, they should still make their child feel respected and validated by listening to their problems without judgment.

“When these things pop up, I encourage parents to try to listen first and validate their child’s experience,” Kristen Eastman, PsyD advises.  Parents should also give their children some time to worry. As long as they are not hurting themselves or other people, it is beneficial to let them feel their emotions. Hence, they become more likely to handle them safely and productively.

Finally, parents should encourage their children to develop habits that help suppress anxiety. Start with the basics, such as proper sleep, well-balanced meals, and regular physical activity. Parents should also teach their children relaxation techniques. Progressive muscle relaxation and deep breathing are two common and effective ways to maintain composure during times of stress.


What To Avoid

To indeed help their child, parents must resist the temptation to “protect” their child from stressors. Far from assisting their child, this aggressive tactic encourages the child to think that they are incapable of handling their problems. Parents should remember that their child, while still immature, is already capable of thinking and managing emotions.

On the other side, merely brushing off your child’s feelings is also not a good practice. Ignoring feelings gives the impression to your children that they are silly and unreasonable. In the future, they might decide to suppress and hide their sentiments, which will only make the anxiety worse. In the same token, do not lose your temper. Getting angry at your child adds unnecessary stress to their life.

Finally, avoid hiding the condition from medical experts. If symptoms are starting to interfere with your child’s daily activities, do not hesitate to approach a mental health professional. Anxiety disorders are diseases, and like physical illnesses, they need treatment to make them indeed go away.