Parenting a Child Who Has Anxiety: Do’s and Don’ts
For parents of children who are suffering with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), dealing with their condition and supporting them through it can be difficult, especially if they do not suffer from anxiety themselves or do not fully understand the condition. If your child is suffering from anxiety, it’s absolutely vital to understand how to treat them and what you should do – and not do – to best support them and help them manage and recover from the condition. Without understanding the condition fully or knowing what are the best steps to take, you could actually make your child worse even if you have the best of intentions.
Do: Be Unconditionally Supportive
Children with anxiety issues will not want to do a lot of the things that children who are not suffering from the condition would. For example, your child might not want to go out and play, they could act shy around family members, or they might even come to you worried and upset about things which are out of their control, such as something which they have seen on the news. When faced with this, it’s important to support your child and ensure that they know you are there for them to lean on when they feel this way. Having somebody to rely on is hugely important to people with anxiety, no matter their age.
Don’t: Blame Them
Even if you don’t come straight out and say ‘it’s your fault you’re like this’, there are many other ways in which you can perhaps unintentionally make your child feel that it is their fault that they have anxiety. For example, excluding them from family gatherings because you are worried that they will have a panic attack or similar can make them feel that they are ‘not normal’, and they could end up blaming themselves. It’s important for parents to try and treat their child as normal, with the help of psychologists.
If your child was diagnosed with a physical illness, you would probably do everything in your power to learn as much as you can about that illness, its symptoms, and how to treat it. But, too often, parents of children with mental health problems such as anxiety fail to do this. Learning as much as you can about the condition, what to expect, and how it affects the mind can help you to have a better understanding of your child.
Don’t: Doubt Them
For somebody who is in the throes of a terrifying public panic attack, there is nothing worse than hearing that they are just doing it for the attention. For somebody who’s trying their hardest to manage their anxiety, there is nothing worse than being told that they just need to ‘try harder’ or to ‘chill out’. This is even worse for children, who have often not got to grips with their condition and don’t know the strategies to keep it under control. Never, ever indicate that you doubt your child has anxiety, especially if they have been diagnosed by a professional.
Parenting a child with anxiety can be tough, but supporting them is the best thing that you can do.