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How to Help an Anxious Child

Learn how to help an anxious child in this Howcast video about child anxiety issues.


I'm here to talk about how to help your anxious child. The first thing to realize is some anxiety is normal. It's not a feeling we ever can get rid of because it's useful. It keeps us safe, it tells us when there's danger sometimes, and do things to take care of ourselves, but when you have a child who's anxious, you want to think about what is making them anxious and see how you can help them. One thing is, don't ever dismiss or minimize their anxiety, because it's a real feeling to them. Of course, you want to think about if it's out of proportion to what the situation is and then help them rein it in, feel more in control, feel calmer, feel safer.

There's a few things that go into feeling anxious. It's often about feeling physically anxious and that's your heart may be beating fast, you may be breathing really fast, your palms may be sweating, you may feel tense and nervous. You also may be thinking, in your head, that there's danger, something awful is going to happen. You're feeling threatened. You're thinking about some awful thing that's looming somewhere and then, what's happening is you sometimes are doing things that are trying to take care of the anxious feeling. You may be avoiding situations. You may be running away. You may actually be clinging. All of those behaviors tell you that a child is feeling anxious.

What might be some good strategies for your child? Once you've established that they're really worried about something, you may talk to them about what's on their mind and maybe problem solve and work through what some of those things are and help them literally just stop thinking about it by distracting them with something else, so it takes their mind off of it and put their minds somewhere else. If it's their body that's showing you and telling them that something is dangerous or they're feeling anxious, you may do things to help them calm their body. Yoga, breathing, even physical activity will make their body feel different and minimize or maybe take care of or get rid of that anxious feeling.

Then, there's the behaviors that they may be doing or showing you that's communicating the anxiety. Maybe they're avoiding places, they don't want to go to a party because they're afraid that they'll be embarrassed or they're a little nervous in terms of being a little shy. Then, maybe what you need to do is practice with them, role play some really good behaviors to take care of that, in terms of making them feel more confident.

So, basically, when you're talking about an anxious child and how to help them, first of all, accept it, acknowledge it and let them know you understand it. Then, try to help them with maybe their thoughts, their feelings, and behaviors. If you feel like their anxiety's interfering with their sleeping, with their school work, with their getting along with their friends, or even at home, then seek out a professional who can help you learn some really good strategies and possibly even help you and your child with cognitive behavior therapy techniques that really are lifelong skills, so that anxiety, if it crops up, a child can feel they have skills to manage it.

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