Whether it's current events in the news or particular events in a child's life, more and more parents are noticing increased anxiety in their young children.
Tamar E. Chansky, a psychotherapist who treats anxious children and adults was recently profiled in The New York Times. According to Dr. Chansky, her goal is not to trivialize children’s fears but to help them see that their fears are unwarranted and can be overcome.
Dr. Chansky offered the following Parent Tips for helping children gain control over their anxiety:
- Empathize with your child. Acknowledge the child’s concerns and the effect they have without dismissing them as silly.
- Describe the problem as coming from the part of our brains that jumps to conclusions and cannot be trusted. Give worry a name, like “brain bug” or "worry bug." This takes the focus away from the child’s specific fear and makes anxiety itself the problem.
- Rewire and resist. Ask your child what she is really worried about and what she thinks might happen. Then ask her to check whether these thoughts really make sense. Help her the inner voice that tells worry it is not the boss.
- Teach relaxation techniques that help temper the biological alarm to fight or flee whenever fear takes over. Deep breathing is a great self-help strategy.
- Help your child focus on what he wants to do and what he would do if worry were not in charge.
- Finally, reinforce your child’s efforts. Praise her for getting through a tough situation.
For parents seeking professional help, there are many local resources: