We are living in times of high anxiety. School shootings, kidnappings, human trafficking, warring political parties, and the like have a majority of parents and their children constantly on edge.
What is a parent to do?
Here are five suggestions you can use as a parent to help combat anxiety in your child and yourself.
A recent survey  found that more than six out of ten children (ages 7-18) report experiencing symptoms of anxiety. The anxiety was usually expressed in the form of unreasonable anger or irritability but also included symptoms of being out of control.
Many parents reported their child’s anxiety also expressed itself in physical symptoms. The symptoms included skin scratching, stomach aches, and pulling hair out. 14% of the parents interviewed said their child had spoken openly to them about committing suicide.
Complicating this issue was the fact that 53% of the parents (one of every two) reported that they, themselves, felt anxious “all the time.”
What Is Making Our Kids Anxious?
The survey found the following reasons for child anxiety:
*Trying new things
*Fear of failure
*Doing anything outside their regular routine”
Here Are 5 Suggestions to Help Parents Deal With an Anxious Child
i. Deal with Your Own Anxiety.
You are your child’s secure base of safety and comfort. Your anxiety signals to your child that their safe base is not stable – possibly raising their anxiety even more. Seek out helpful resources to deal with your own stress.
ii. Do Not Blame Yourself for Your Child’s Anxiety.
You cannot prevent school shootings, kidnappings and other large-scale problems contributing to your child’s anxiety. Blaming yourself (“My child’s anxiety means I am a terrible mother”) for events beyond your control is illogical. Doing so leads to guilt, which can lead to more anxiety for you, and your child.
iii. Control What You Can Control
While you cannot control major anxiety-causing events, you can control many of the smaller ones. Is your child dreading going to a sleepover? Make a reason they cannot go.
My daughter experienced sleepover dread at times growing up. My wife and I would create a valid reason for her not to go. We would tell her, “You cannot attend the sleepover because tomorrow morning we are going to ________” (go see grandma, clean house, run errands, etc.) You will need to follow through on the reason or you end up teaching your kid that lying is o.k..
Or, you can always ground your child for the night of the sleepover. Ground her because her room is messy, chores undone, she needs to study for a test, etc. The grounding allows your child to save face with his/his friends.
Does your child have a problem with fear of failure? First, assess whether you are contributing to this fear with unrealistic expectations. If you are, deal with those expectations first. Then, calmly talk with your child about their worries and assure them you unconditionally love them and support them.
Negotiate your expectations if there is room to do so, depending on the issue.
iv. Do NOT Do This!
The WORST thing you can do is say to your child: “Don’t Worry About It”
This statement helps nothing. Worse, it sends the message: “As your parent, I don’t want to hear about your problems, and I don’t want to talk about them. Just ignore your problems.”
But parents, the problem DOES exist, at least to your child. And it may be making them emotionally and possibly, physically sick.
Instead, listen with empathy to your child’s fears. Identify their feelings and find a workable, anxiety-reducing solution.
v. Be Willing to Seek Professional Help for Your Child.
Your kid’s school counselor is the best place to start. Many schools have access to outside child counselors that regularly work with anxiety in children. If this does not help, contact your pediatrician for recommendations.
The Bible is full of comfort and reassurance regarding anxiety for the Christian. Here are a few scripture that address our fears.
“God is our protection and source of strength. He is always ready to help us in times of trouble.” (Psalm 46:1, ERV)
“So be humble under God’s powerful hand. Then he will lift you up when the right time comes. Give all your worries to him, because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6-7, ERV)
“I was very worried and upset, but you comforted me and made me happy!” (Psalm 94:19, ERV)
“Don’t worry—I am with you. Don’t be afraid—I am your God. I will make you strong and help you. I will support you with my right hand that brings victory.” (Isaiah 41:10, ERV)
“Don’t worry about anything, but pray and ask God for everything you need, always giving thanks for what you have. And because you belong to Christ Jesus, God’s peace will stand guard over all your thoughts and feelings. His peace can do this far better than our human minds.” (Philippians 4:6-7, ERV)
Parents, use these verses to comfort yourself. You can also read these verses to your child. For younger children explain the verses in your own words.
Remember, these scriptures do not teach that we never experience difficult times. Instead, they show that we can experience a confidence in our relationship with our Heavenly Father as we face and deal with troubled, difficult times.
Jesus said as long as we live on this earth we will experience trouble. He then follows that truth by explaining that through our relationship with Him we can experience a confident peace that is beyond the shallow peace the world offers.
“I have told you these things so that you can have peace in me. In this world you will have troubles. But be brave! I have defeated the world!” (John 16:33, ERV)
The Bottom Line
Anxiety is a fact of life in our ever-unstable world. Unfortunately, our children are not immune to anxiety.
There is good news! As a parent you can educate yourself and take healthy steps to help your child, and your self, proactively and effectively overcome the anxieties of this life.
For the Family,
Before You Go……
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Dr. Bill Walker