One in five children will be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. Parenting an anxious child can be a challenging reality for any parent to deal with and fully understand. As a parent, you want to protect your child and make them feel safe and secure all of the time. Whether your child has an anxiety disorder or seems especially fearful, giving them the security you so desire them to feel might feel impossible.
One thing you can do to help foster a sense of security in your child is to encourage them to be brave. That might seem like an impossible feat in an anxious child, but it isn’t. While you might not feel like you’re doing the right thing at the time, by encouraging your child to confront their fears you will help raise a child who can learn to manage their anxiety and feel more than a sense of helplessness and despair, you can help them be brave.
So, what can you do to define brave? How can you teach your child that very definition? Here are a few suggestions
Understand There Is Nothing to “Fix”
Even if you have an anxious child, it’s essential that you never to see them as a project. They don’t need to be “fixed.” Part of successfully parenting an anxious child is knowing that you don’t need to put them in situations where they are forced to face their fears or face the consequences.
Instead, your goal should be to soothe them while encouraging them to face those fears. Bravery isn’t always charging at dragons. Sometimes, it’s looking at them from afar — then, stepping a bit closer.
It’s crucial for your child to feel comfortable and safe, especially when faced with a trigger. Whenever they are, it’s your job as a parent to let them know just how brave they are for doing things like staying calm or giving that fear a chance.
Point Out Times of Bravery
If your child comes to you with an anxious thought or worry, try to turn those fears into something positive.
One of the best ways to do that is to point out past times of bravery. For example, if your child is anxious about playing on a sports team at school, bring up the last time they played and how well they did. Remind them of how brave they were and how nothing bad happened.
When your child sees themselves as brave, they are more likely to face their fears again and again.
Manage Your Own Responses
Again, it’s important to remember that when parenting an anxious child you won’t be able to protect them from everything. So, it’s essential to manage your responses when they come to you with fears and worries. It’s possible that you might become so concerned that your child will get harmed, facing their anxious thoughts that you interferewith their ability to be brave. That isn’t an easy pill to swallow, of course. Yet, it makes self-reflection crucial.
If you feel your child is having a hard time overcoming their worries, don’t forget to look at yourself. Are you helping them or discouraging them? What could or should you be doing differently?
A New Definition of Brave
Far too often, we think of “brave” individuals as those who have no fears. That has never been true. The courageous people have many fears, but they are willing to do what it takes to face them.
Every time your child confronts a fear, whether they do so slowly or all at once, they are displaying a huge act of bravery, and you can happily praise them for that. Doing so can help them overcome some of their worries and even provide you with some reassurance.
If you’d like help learning techniques to help your child manage their anxiety, please contact us to schedule a consultation.