I have a child who suffers from anxiety. That statement, though very personal to me, is all too common. Although only 9.4% of children between the ages of 3 to 17 are diagnosed with some form of anxiety, we still need to count all of the children who have not been diagnosed but still suffer with the symptoms every day.
Raising a child with anxiety in our current world can be an even trickier task. With social media at their fingertips, world issues are even more apparent nowadays. I mean, raise a kid through the pandemic and chances are they’ve developed some form of anxiety.
I like to think both my husband and I have done a fantastic job of creating a thriving environment for our daughter to express herself and feel safe. We instill in her the confidence that she can handle herself but also the knowledge that she has two supportive parents who are here for her through anything.
Even in the most perfect environments, a child can still develop symptoms of anxiety and may not quite know what to do about it. When symptoms arise, it can feel isolating and overwhelming, no matter their age — so your support means more than anything.
Raising A Child With Anxiety
I noticed her symptoms beginning to show around the age of five. She would always be picking at her nails and the skin around them, as well as obsessing over the worst case scenario in any situation. These signs were not obvious to me at first. I assumed she had a fidgeting issue or a need for a bit more attention. When I realized that these were signs of anxiety, I quickly shifted my approach on how to handle the situation.
Although we’re still working on the nail biting and pulling, her outlets for her anxiety have increased, as well as our awareness of the situation. I’ve noticed that overstimulation, like having too many choices; or overwhelm, like not having enough time to get ready, will send her anxiety into a spiral. She also tends to overthink most situations and can somehow think of even the worst, most outlandish scenarios to occur.
I now know that giving her too many choices in things like food and clothing can be a bit too much, so I narrow them down. I’ve noticed that if I don’t give her enough time to prepare, it will leave her feeling overwhelmed and full of anxiety. So, we lay out our clothes for the next day the night before, and think of other ways to avoid anxiety during the morning rush.
When I notice her overthinking or going to the worst possible scenario, I allow her to express her concerns and worries but also explain how logically she is safe and the chances of that happening are minimal, at best. I want her to feel safe to express her worries without judgment, while helping her through her anxiety to know she’ll be okay.
I feel that in our current world, it’s almost impossible to avoid feelings of anxiety, no matter your age. With the pandemic, every person was affected and tested in more ways than one. My children spent two years and counting in a global pandemic that shut them down from “normal” activity for all too long. I’ll be helping my eldest through her anxiety as she grows and gets into new territories in life. We’re heading to middle school and teenage years, so anxiety isn’t far behind for her, I’m sure.
The key is to give her the tools to soothe herself in a healthy way when she feels her anxiety coming on. The main things I try to focus on are open communication and being present when she is expressing things to me, so she knows she can trust me. Since we have such a great open line of communication, I can read into her non-verbal behaviors and bring things up when they seem concerning.
Creating a safe environment for your child to grow up and thrive in can do wonders for their anxiety. No matter how concerning the world can become in their eyes, having a “safe space” to reside in can be essential to their emotional survival. Factor in an open line of communication and you will be an ally for them in their journey with anxiety. You can’t make all of their concerns go away, but you can be a big help during their moments of struggle.
Do you have a story to share about raising a child with anxiety? What kind of relief strategies does your family use? Let us know in the comments below.
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