Parenting an Anxious Child


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Seven-year old Nidhi’s parents helplessly looked on as she felt breathless and restless and began pacing vigorously. From their experience they knew that no amount of comforting and distracting would help her calm down. Their anxious looks made Nidhi feel even more helpless and her symptoms of anxiety intensified.

Anxiety is said to be a normal response to different stressful situations and might be beneficial to function better at workplace, social situations or at home. However, when the child manifests anxiety in the form of intense symptoms such as excessive sweating, shivering, panicking, going breathless, palpitation in the heart, intense restlessness, dry mouth, numbness or tingling hands or feet, muscle tension, nausea and dizziness and issues of sleeplessness, it requires attention and action.

Some of the reasons a child might experience anxiety could be trauma of abuse, accident, bullying, extreme pressure to perform well in academics, non-conducive environment at school, neighbourhood, home and ill-health over a period of time rendering the child helpless to learn skills of managing her or his daily activities.

When the child perceives a situation or a stimulus as threat, the symptoms of anxiety surface. With past experience that she or he has not been able to handle well and caused harm to self (emotionally, physically or sexually) or others, the child becomes extremely alert and sensitive and reacts to the stimulus. The response to the perception of threat could be learnt from the environment from either a parent or a significant person.

How can you as a parent help?

Here are a few pointers on how you could help your child going through the symptoms of anxiety.

  • Your child’s anxiety is not reflection of your parenting
  • Encourage and allow the child to go through the symptoms. Do not try to comfort by distracting or telling the child to suppress reaction to the threat cue.
  • Do not punish or make fun of your child’s anxiety
  • Tell the child it is okay to feel anxious and you will be there as a support
  • Encourage the child to talk about his or her anxiety
  • Teach relaxation techniques and activities
  • Stay calm when your child is going through the symptoms of anxiety

Seek professional help for your child to overcome or manage anxiety.