“My child is so anxious when it comes to school, sports and new social situations, what are some techniques we can use to reduce the worrying?”
by Susanne Sacco, LISW, MEd., Antone F. Feo, Ph.D. & Associates, Inc.
Are you a parent of an anxious child or teen? You are not alone. Fortunately, there are several techniques and coping skills you can use to help your child successfully enter anxiety producing situations instead of avoiding them. Each experience will build confidence and lessen the likelihood of long term anxiety and depression.
First, let your child know that everyone feels nervous sometimes and maybe even share an experience from when you were a child and felt anxious. Next, help your child talk about what the upcoming event will be like. While talking with them, remain positive and bring up some possible scenarios that could be unknowingly making them afraid (getting sick at school, not having a friend) and define for them how those issues are resolved, “If you feel sick at school and tell the teacher they will always know how to call me and we can figure out what to do.” Depending on your child’s age, he or she may want to draw a picture of the upcoming situation, read a book about it, and/or meet a friend that will be at the same event or who has gone through the given situation. You may want to let the adults that will be involved in the given situation know about your child’s fears. These adults can then pay special attention to your child’s reactions and likely make your child more comfortable without making him or her feel called out. Being the center of attention can sometimes increase anxiety.
Finally, build in some “celebration” for your child when they conquer their anxieties and attend or follow through with something that has caused them anxiety. For example, tell your child that you know starting basketball is making them nervous and that you would like to celebrate with them after they follow through by going for ice cream, going to the park, or another activity of their choice. During this time, you would want to talk about what feelings they had during the activity and how they feel afterward.
If your child is not sleeping, crying excessively, complaining of physical aches and pains, failing school, being isolated with failure to join in and make friends, and/or refusing to go to school the anxiety may be excessive and your child may need professional help. Find a therapist that works with anxiety in children. Make sure that your child connects positively with the therapist. Sometimes you have to try a few different therapists to get that connection but it is essential to successful therapy.