Twenty-five to 30 percent of kids under age 18 suffer from an anxiety disorder, and some of the time that anxiety is inherited. Parents who struggle with anxiety themselves could pass that anxiety along to their children through their parenting styles, according to a pediatric psychiatrist. That’s why your children are two to seven times more likely to develop an anxiety disorder if you have one yourself.
Parents Set an Example for How Kids View the World, Says Pediatric Psychiatrist
If you’re a parent who’s struggling with an anxiety disorder, there’s a good chance you see the world as a scary place. Our pediatric psychiatrist points out that children learn how to behave by watching their parents – and that includes learning how to view the world. If you’re constantly fretting and worrying and seeing monsters lurking in every shadow, your kids will fret, worry, and see monsters, too.
Many parents inadvertently send their children the message that anxiety is justified, through their body language, reactions or tone of voice. If you’re afraid of snakes, for example, and you react with fear when you and your child see a snake, your child will very reasonably form the impression that snakes are something he or she should fear. If your child has a negative experience – for example, if he or she is bitten by a dog – your nervousness at your child’s next encounter with a dog may send the message, even more so than the previous attack, that dogs are to be feared.
A pediatric psychiatrist may be able to help children whose parents have inadvertently encouraged their anxiety through their efforts to relieve it. If your child is anxious about going to school, for example, giving him or her the option to call home throughout the day whenever he or she begins to feel overwhelmed will not solve the problem. On the contrary, this behavior will send the message that you think your child isn’t going to be able to handle going to school, or that your child is right to be nervous about attending school. Instead, a pediatric psychiatrist encourages parents to reassure children that they’re capable of dealing with life’s challenges, and not to undermine their confidence by offering too much support.
Tips to Help Children Cope with Anxiety
Many mental health specialists emphasize that children can develop anxiety disorders, and that the average age of onset for some anxiety disorders is as young as seven years old. If your child’s anxiety appears to be excessive or abnormal, you should seek the help of a pediatric psychiatrist – therapy can help your child learn to cope with anxiety, and can even prevent the development of an anxiety disorder in children who are just beginning to struggle with anxious feelings. Here are some tips to help your child cope with anxious feelings:
- Don’t shelter your child. Learning to cope with difficult situations and overcome anxiety is a part of life. While you might be tempted to protect your child by removing him or her from anxiety-creating situations or by removing the thing that scares your child, that’s not the right response. Trying to protect your child from the source of his or her anxiety will only make the worry cycle further entrenched, as your child learns that an anxious reaction is all that’s necessary to make the unpleasant stimulus go away.
- Let your child know that everything’s going to be OK. When your child is feeling anxious about a particular situation or upcoming event, you should neither belittle nor encourage his or her feelings. Listen to what he or she has to say, and let your child know that you believe in his or her ability to face his or her fears.
- Avoid leading questions. Leading questions, like “Are you worried about your math test?” only serve to give your child the idea that math tests should be a source of anxiety. Instead, ask, “How do you feel about taking the math test?”
- Talk it out with your child. Facing fears is often easier when we have a chance to voice them. If your child is worried about something, like going to school, for example, ask your child what he or she is afraid will happen and talk about how he or she can deal with that worst case scenario. This kind of conversation can help your child see that the worst case scenario wouldn’t be so bad.
Anxiety disorders in children, just as in adults, are often the result of a neurochemical imbalance. Our pediatric psychiatrist can help you and your child cope with high levels of stress, anxiety and fear.
Call Proliance Center today at 561-338-7725.