You know something? I am excited that you are still here with me. You rockstar, you!! Thanks for your encouragement.
Right, yes. To business.
Kids worry. We all do. Sometimes though, worry and anxiety creeps into everyday life in a way that changes everything. That’s what we’re looking into today.
Here’s an example: You and your child are out for a walk when a dog runs up to you, barking and showing a large set of very white, very sharp teeth. Nothing happens to you or your child physically. But that dog made you jump and set up a tingling feeling of (understandable) fear. The dog gets called away by its flustered owner, apologies duly made, and hastily accepted, and you are on your way again.
You may be a little shaken, but you’re okay. Whew! Your heartrate races for a few more minutes, and your hands may be a bit shaky, but you’ll do.
Your child may experience all of the things you feel, but she may not recover as fast. That dog was HUGE!!! Think of it from her viewpoint! She may be much more upset than you realize. She may not be okay. And this may trigger an all-consuming anxiety.
Next time you are ready to go for a walk, or a trip to the park (any place where you might see a dog) your child is unusually hesitant. You try to persuade her. Then she flat out refuses to go. Tantrums and crying may ensue.
In fact, now she won’t go anywhere with you that might lead to an encounter with a dog! You try everything you can think of to reassure her, to no avail.
Oh no. What changed here?
She used to love to see puppies and playful dogs.
She has even been asking for a puppy for the past year!
Now, even the thought of seeing a dog now makes your child tremble and cry.
How are you going to help your child get over this new fear? I think I know where you might begin….
Let’s look at some common mistakes parents make. Part 2 will offer some alternatives.
- “Nothing bad will happen, I promise!” “Don’t worry, you’re safe. I’m with you.” You might think you are being convincing, but have you ever known it to work out that way? Look at her. Does she seem to buy into what you are saying?
- Launching into great detail. Now, letting kids know what the day looks like is great, I recommend it in fact. Giving them every little detail is not the same thing as an outline of the day, and too much detail becomes overwhelming fast – and that leads to anxiety.
- Here’s a good one – “Calm down and everything will be fine.” You may try teaching skills to help your child become calm. Seems like a good idea. But teaching relaxation skills without dealing with the source of your child’s anxiety is a lot like putting a Band-Aid on a bleeding artery. It’s not going to help.
- You may find yourself altering family plans to avoid the fear. This still does not deal with the problem.
- Excusing outbursts of anger and tantrums. These behaviors may be signs of uncontrollable anxiety. This is going to need a different approach.
- Letting the child see your own anxious behaviors without modeling coping strategies.
- Becoming frustrated and angry. “JUST DO IT!!” is great for Nike, not great for a fearful child.
The next post (part 2) will look at ways to stop the worry monster in its tracks.
After that, in part 3, I will offer some ideas on how to raise an independent child.
Baby steps. Don’t worry, I’ve got you.
Yup, you caught me! It’s not what to say to a fearful child, but then that’s not who’s reading this.
I believe in you. Hang in there. You’ve got this! – Mikki.
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