Monday, September 8, 2014

9 things to help an anxious child

I am working on parenting myself.  Teaching me things that I should have learned as a child.  This article on 9 things to teach a child that is anxious surprised me by the approach.  I especially like FEEL ( I personally prefer pause instead of freeze since it implies temporary and of short duration, but PEEL doesn't make the same kind of nifty acronym.)

1. Stop reassuring your child - 

What?  I have tried reassuring myself for years.  I felt it didn't work and was frustrated.  Now this article affirms it doesn't work and suggests an alternative way to approach anxiety. 

Try something I call the FEEL method:
Freeze -- pause and take some deep breaths with your child. Deep breathing can help reverse the nervous system response.
Empathize -- anxiety is scary. Your child wants to know that you get it.
Evaluate -- once your child is calm, it's time to figure out possible solutions.
Let Go - Let go of your guilt; you are an amazing parent giving your child the tools to manage their worry.
This I can  try.  Deep breathe, calm my thinking, empathize with myself, evaluate why I may be feeling anxious, and let go of my tendency to beat myself up for not always being cool, calm and collected 24/7. 

2. Highlight Why Worrying is Good

OK, this was not something I expected.  I did have predators to run from. Worry helped me survive but doesn't help with living a happy life.  Hmmmmmm.  I need to think this one over for awhile.

 3. Bring Your Child's Worry to Life

  Conversations in my head? I do this already.  I hadn't considered personifying worry.  Another interesting perspective I haven't considered before. 

4. Teach Your Child to Be a Thought Detective

"Remember, worry is the brain's way of protecting us from danger."  Another quote to think over for awhile.  but then explains how to explore your own thoughts.
Catch your thoughts: Imagine every thought you have floats above your head in a bubble (like what you see in comic strips). Now, catch one of the worried thoughts like "No one at school likes me."
Collect evidence: Next, collect evidence to support or negate this thought. Teach your child not to make judgments about what to worry about based only on feelings. Feelings are not facts. (Supporting evidence: "I had a hard time finding someone to sit with at lunch yesterday." Negating evidence: "Sherry and I do homework together--she's a friend of mine.")
Challenge your thoughts: The best (and most entertaining) way to do this is to teach your children to have a debate within themselves.

5. Allow Them to Worry

This one I have done...I call it my worrynometer.  If DH says he is supposed to be home I choose a time at least an hour later and decide that if he is not back by this time, then I can worry.  I like the idea of allowing time to worry.  It allows my mind to honing on those little feelings that I normally ignore.  This article is very intriguing to me.

6. Help Them Go from What If to What Is

Get out of future possible scenerios and look closely at what is.  Mindfulness is popping up everywhere.

Research shows that coming back to the present can help alleviate this tendency. One effective method of doing this is to practice mindfulness exercises. Mindfulness brings a child from what if to what is. To do this, help your child simply focus on their breath for a few minutes.
 7. Avoid Avoiding Everything that Causes Anxiety

 I appreciate the reminder that avoiding things that cause anxiety only works in the short run.  In the long run it takes up more and more of my time, until I am spending more energy avoiding than living.  The article shares a brief version of desensitization, which works.  I'm making a list of things I want to desensitize. 

8. Help Them Work Through a Checklist

Cool I love this idea, I am so going to try it:
When kids face anxiety they feel the same way. Why not create a checklist so they have a step-by-step method to calm down? What do you want them to do when they first feel anxiety coming on? If breathing helps them, then the first step is to pause and breathe. Next, they can evaluate the situation. In the end, you can create a hard copy checklist for your child to refer to when they feel anxious. 
9. Practice Self-Compassion

Toward the goal of a healthier life for the whole family, practice self-compassion. Remember, you're not alone, and you're not to blame. It's time to let go of debilitating self-criticism and forgive yourself. Love yourself.  

I love this article.  On a 5 scale rating, I would give it a 5.  It is clear, concise, and links to further research if you are interested.  I am planning to try several of these ideas with myself. My children are all grown so I am parenting me.  I was heading this direction to begin with, it is given me more ideas to try.   


TR said...

This is a great article; I find that i have to learn things, grow up through reading parenting articles. I hadn't thought of it that way but that is actually what is happening in my recovering - self-parenting.

Ruth said...

I'm glad you like it, TR.

jessie said...

This was helpful. Thanks for sharing.