26 Aug Supporting Your Anxious Child
“I’m worried that mum will forget me.”
This is one of the most common worries I hear when talking to children and it generally goes hand in hand with a perplexed looking mum saying ‘but I’ve never forgotten you.’ For some children, the worry that mum will forget them is often a catch-all for all those worries and self-doubts that children hold onto but are not sure how to express.
When children are worried about something it is really important to validate how they feel rather than dismiss their worry because it makes no sense. Worries about being picked up, fear of the dark or monsters are all very real to children. An adult saying ‘I can see that you are worried about that. Is there anything we can do to help shrink that worry?” provides a simple message that you are taking their concerns seriously. Validation is very important for children and it encourages them to communicate more freely with you about what is bothering them. Talking about the worry with someone can give it less potency as it is when children keep thinking on the same worry over and over that the worry can become magnified and overwhelming.
Talking with your child about some practical strategies that might help ‘shrink’ the worry can be useful as children are quite adept at coming up with creative ideas to manage their worries. Encouraging your child to brainstorm a whole bunch of ideas helps your child regain some control. For example, sometimes a night light can help solve a fear of the dark or reviewing pick-up details can help children feel reassured about pick up plans, for some children making a sign to put on their door telling monsters to ‘keep out’ works. Sometimes it can be a bit of trial and error to find the strategy that suits your child and addresses the worry, so patience and encouragement to keep trying are important.
Despite a parent’s best endeavours sometimes a child’s anxiety can require professional counselling support. Generally, it is worthwhile consulting a mental health professional if a child’s anxiety has escalated to the point where it is impacting on them being able to participate in everyday activities or it is impacting on family functioning.
Julie Steward – Psychologist