We usually see children anxious coming across a wide range of situations, for instance having to face a stranger, attending school, expressing their opinions in classroom with regards to not being able to understand what the teachers are teaching, fearing negative consequences if they do so, but somewhere or the other we the elders are responsible for creating such a threatening environment for the child, imposing several “do’s and dont’s”.
I have come across several parents, who are found to be extremely nervous when it comes to dealing with the school authorities; they not only silently bear the tortures towards their ward but also indirectly or directly teach children to bear the atrocities, which strongly affect the personality development of the child in the future. For all those parents and care givers below are few strategies which is likely to helpful if implemented on time and consistently.
Do not be over involved or under involved, do not intervene when not essential, think about the future of the child, you as a parent will not be always there to protect your child, he/she has to learn ways of handling problems and coping with several stressors in life. Teach your children that one can be assertive enough to express one’s opinion in any situation be it a social event, school etc. One should not fear the negative consequences and bear the unnecessary tortures.
Do not reassure your child with false statements: When your child worries, you know there is nothing to worry about, so you say, “Trust me. There’s nothing to worry about”. Wish it were that simple. Your anxious child desperately wants to listen to you, but the brain won’t let it happen. In other words, it is really hard for your child to think clearly, use logic or even remember how to complete basic tasks. What should you do instead of trying to rationalize the worry away?
Try the following :
• 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.
Highlight Why Worrying is good: Remember, anxiety is tough enough without a child believing that something is wrong with me. Many kids even develop anxiety about having anxiety. Teach your kids that worrying does, in fact, have a purpose. I remember the words of my father which he would state whenever I would say dad I am nervous. He would reply by stating “darogi tabi padogi”.
Worry is a protection mechanism. Worry rings an alarm in our system and helps us survive danger. Teach your kids that worry is perfectly normal, it can help protect us, and everyone experiences it from time to time.
Teach Your Child to Be a Thought Detective: Remember, worry is the brain’s way of protecting us from danger. To make sure we’re really paying attention, the mind often exaggerates the object of the worry (e.g., mistaking a stick for a snake). You may have heard that teaching your children to think more positively could calm their worries. But the best remedy for distorted thinking is not positive thinking; it’s accurate thinking. Try a method we call the 3Cs:
• 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.
• Challenge your thoughts: The best (and most entertaining) way to do this is to teach your children to have a debate within themselves.
Worry Time: As you know, telling your children not to worry won’t prevent them from doing so. Create a daily ritual called “Worry Time” that lasts 10 to 15 minutes. During this ritual encourage your children to release all their worries in writing. You can make the activity fun by decorating a worry box. During worry time there are no rules on what constitutes a valid worry — anything goes. When the time is up, close the box and say good-bye to the worries for the day. This is one of the best strategy and in fact effective.
Avoid Avoiding Everything that Causes Anxiety: Do your children want to avoid social events, dogs, school, planes or basically any situation that causes anxiety? As a parent, do you help them do so? Of course! This is natural. The flight part of the flight-fight-freeze response urges your children to escape the threatening situation. Unfortunately, in the long run, avoidance makes anxiety worse. So what’s the alternative? Try a method we call systematic desensitization. Kids who are able to manage their worry break it down into manageable chunks. This chunking concept and gradual exposure to reach a goal. Teach the child to First ask yourself: What is the worst that can happen? Then prepare to accept it. Then proceed to improve on the worst.
One of the greatest discoveries a man makes, one of his great surprises, is to find he can do what he was afraid he couldn’t do. ~Henry Ford