Anxious Kids – here are my do’s and don’ts
I have a child who gets anxious. He gets really worried about stuff and sometimes totally loses control to stress.
I wonder how he became so anxious. We have provided a safe, stable and loving environment here for him – so why is he anxious? Sometimes this even feels like guilt, like it must have been something I have done. But then I get over myself and I realise that I have the honour of a very important job. This boy needs me. He needs love, support, understanding and an aware approach. His soul chose me as his mum. I am the woman for the job.
At the moment, my son is obsessing about a movie that freaked him out. “The Never Ending story”. It has freaked him to the core. He feels like he could get taken away, lost in a fantasy world and never come back. He has been asking for kinesiology sessions, which do help, but I have also been instilling in him the idea that he can heal himself, so he feels the power to control and manage this on his own.
I have been trying various tools and techniques and found there are things to do and to avoid so I thought I would share them with you.
|Tell them they are sillyFear is not silly it a natural instinct that has shaped our evolution. Those of our ancestors who ran from the wildcat survived, the ones with no fear did not. The fear is real. It feels awful. The reason for their fear might not be real. But you could compare their fear with one that is equally implausible to give them some perspective. Do this gently.||Tell them they are always loved and supportedNo matter what happens you are there for them, you will keep them safe, fight for them, find them and always look out for them. They are just amazing. I whisper “I love and accept you just the way you are” to my kids when they are half asleep or cuddling in. It fills them a deep sense of self worth.|
|Tell them “Just stop thinking about it”Because they can’t. Their brain is fixated on this fear. It has become involuntary. Telling them to stop sets them up for failure. And will only result in them not sharing their worries with you in the future.||Give them techniquesTry slow breathing, brain integration exercises, tapping, tensing and releasing muscles, mantras, yoga moves, exercise, self-defence classes, find anything to support their confidence.Bring them into the present. Fear is generally a projection into the future causing worry. Bring them into the here and now. Get them to experience the sensory input that they are receiving right now. I can hear a bird singing, I can feel the soft breeze on my skin. I can see, smell, taste, hear and feel…. Then remind them that right now – there is no problem.” I am okay now” could become their mantra.|
|Come across as stoic and super humanAt some point in your life you have felt powerless with fear. We all have. Fear is natural and we need it to stay alive and run from danger. You are a model for your kids. Show them that you feel it too and it is something you can overcome, so they can too. Next time you are afraid, tell your child and show them that you are brave and you will do it anyway. Encourage them to be brave. Bravery is not the absence of fear, but feeling the fear and doing it anyway.||Share with them your own experiences of fear and stressTell them a story of the time when you were hurtling down a hill on your bike or afraid of tigers under your bed. They will love feeling connected with you like this and more willing to share their own fears with you.There are also some good kid’s books available about fear that might help.|
|Allow their worry to manipulate the way you discipline themTheir stress could turn into a great reason not to get rid of worry if every time they were stressed they didn’t have to be polite or unpack the dishwasher. You do not want it to be a useful tool for them. Support their growth as a human being in general and not their behaviour. At times they may feel unsupported and vulnerable in their pain, but just keep reminding them that you are supporting them as a human being, supporting their growth and you love them unconditionally, but that does not mean that they can behave like that.||Allow them to feel the fearBut not to stay there too long. Show them that you are confident in their ability to overcome, to move through and to process this. They may have lost their own belief in themselves to face this emotion. They may be trying to avoid these feelings at all costs. This fear of feeling something feels really vulnerable and disempowering. Let them sit with the pain, feel it in their body as vibrations and then breathe it out. You do not want them to feel that they need to avoid all potentially scary moments in their life, they need to be open to experiences and processing in order to life full and rich lives.|
|Attach safety to a conditionFor example it would not be useful for them to only feel safe when they are with their cuddly toy or a special rock, because there is always going to be that moment when that prop is hiding under a bed somewhere and all the fear comes back with a vengeance.Don’t label themLet this be a phase, something they are moving through. If they get stuck with a label they might get stuck with the problem too.||Try tricks and spells to empower them Challenge their negative thoughtsBurn a drawing of all the things they are afraid of.Shout at the thoughts – “that’s enough!”Say “thank you to the brain for trying to keep me safe but I will be just fine without you worrying for me”Tap it out – try EFT or tapping
Create a circle of safety (an imaginary circle on the floor that they can jump into and take on confidence and take it with them)
Please let me know if you have any more cool tricks. J
Our fearful little warriors are amazing. Their fear is just a sign that they are sensitive and aware. They can perceive danger and sadness, and all that could possibly go wrong. But this also means that they are able to empathise, leading them to the potential for compassion. They can feel with their other senses and have insights and intuition that could become their strengths. They are what they are and we love them for it. The more we can instil a sense of personal empowerment in our anxious kids, the more these experiences will become their gifts.
Hi, I'm Nicole Mathieson, a relationship and body image coach, couple therapist and author.
My relationships blog helps couples learn practical ways to cultivate a deeper understanding of one another, find safety and connection in relationships, navigate difficult conversations and repair after conflict.