Being the mom of an anxious child is life changing! It changes the lens through which you read any parenting situation. It changes the tone of your voice; the ability to be spontaneous (ok, parenting in general orders a ceases and desist letter there); and it seriously changes your family dynamics. Changing doesn’t mean worse however. Well, yes it does sometimes. But it can also open your heart and enrich your brain as you struggle to learn new approaches to ordinary things. Continue reading below to learn how to help an anxious child feel safe again.
Raising an Anxious Child
Grocery shopping can become a battle - one where you’re surrounded by judging eyes who can only see the crazy.
Like leaving a playdate. Instead of just simply saying “Ok we’ve gotta go. Grab your things and say goodbye.”
You instead sink slowly to your knees to make eye contact and say, “We‘re going to have to leave soon, so finish up what your doing. You have 5 minutes.” “Three minute warning.” “Two minutes then we go.” And on and on until you have her by the hand and sail out the door in harmony. Or something resembling that.
An anxious child worries about everything - but you don’t necessarily know that. Or if you do know it, you may not really understand it. Sometimes it is hard to tell if it is just curiosity or anxiety. She doesn’t have the words to tell you, and oftentimes, she really doesn’t know what she’s feeling. She is just trying to hold it together through the day.
And then you might even wonder, could it be more? Maybe a sensory processing disorder? Or perhaps you are dealing with ADD or ADHD? It’s so hard to know. And it can be difficult to know how to respond.
How to Help an Anxious Child Feel Safe
It’s important to understand though, that no matter what she is dealing with, those tantrums are a cry for help. I know that it can make you want to cry or tear your hair out – or hers – but it is simply an expression of all this emotion she can’t name.
It helps me to remember that she is more scared than anything. Scared by her worries and her thoughts that things will be bad. But in the middle of the screaming and crying she is not actually just worrying; she is scared. Scared by these emotions that take over her body and voice. So when you least want to hold her, and when you are not feeling like being soft and caring, THAT is when you need to be. That is a huge challenge. But I find keeping my eye on the end game helps.
The more you yell, the more afraid she becomes . Then she’s scared of your emotions and actions, as well as her own. If you can just wrap your arms around her and hold on really tight, she will feel your heartbeat and your breath and will match it. She will calm down enough to listen, to follow you, to take control of her body again. She will feel safe, and you can then celebrate her victory.
And that’s the end game. For now. This is how you help an anxious child feel safe again.
Featured Contributor: Dana Baker
Dana Baker is a writer, editor, not-so-perfect mom of two, and a Parent and Teen Coach. She help families reconnect and find a way around the walls that cause such isolation and dysfunction in these years. Dana offers advice from the trenches, a non-judgmental ear and tips/feedback based on the science of psychology and the reality of parenting. Read her blog and follow her on social media.