5 Ways to Help Your Child With Anxiety

Any worriers out there?

Here’s the thing with worry: some folks are born with it, wired into their makeup, and others aren’t. Me, I’m not an innate worrier. Intense? Yes. Loud and blustery? Heck yes. But anxious, no.

I think this is why it took me so long to realize that my one daughter is a worrier. It took me years – we’re talking five or six years – to see that anxiety’s in her wiring. See, she doesn’t come across like a worrier. No phobias or clinging to me leg or hanging back from new activities. No, she’s lively and assertive and independent, a can-do kid. And she’s forceful (a good thing!) and has a will like steel.

So when it comes to her meltdowns, for years I didn’t see that their fuel – at least in part – was worry. Worry makes a person feel inadequate, overwhelmed, out-of-control (whether or not that’s a valid reason to feel that way).  And the classic anxiety responses are fight or flight.   My daughter trends strongly toward “fight.” She goes to B A T T L E, not toward withdrawal, pretty much every time worry besets her.

I didn’t know for years… but thank the good Lord Jesus I know now.

Because now I can see behind her angry, steeled face to the worried heart behind it, and I can have right compassion. I can see her fears and needs better. And we can begin to make some headway together from that real, raw space.

My daughter’s in a challenging season now, and I’ve been pulling out all the stops… drilling down with her to core feelings and striving to unlock change. There’s been lots to learn.

Here are 5 things I’ve realized I need to do to help my daughter – and all of us – in working with her through anxiety.

1. Expect her to cycle in and out of anxious seasons. When worry is part of your innate makeup, you carry with you the tendency to worry – it doesn’t just go away. Sometimes it’ll be a central, forefront struggle and sometimes it’ll recede into the background. But I need to be fair to her and have realistic expectations that worrying spells will crop up throughout her childhood… even though she’ll (hopefully!) become progressively more skilled and adept at managing it.

The first five months of full-day school when she was newly six were incredibly taxing for her (and hence, for all of us). My husband and I were overwhelmed with relief when she got to the other side of it. But we weren’t prepared when an another spell of similar intensity cropped up a year later; we didn’t know to expect the seasonality of it. Now we know.

Susan Arico
Susan Arico
Susan Arico is writer, strategy consultant, wife, and mom to four. She’s a fast-talking Yankee who recently returned to her native New England after living in Crete, Greece for the past four years. Susan writes about living adventure, wrestling the soul, and figuring out what it means to do both well. Visit her at www.susanbarico.com

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