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Treating Child Anxiety

This past weekend, I was playing with my kids at one of Boca Raton’s beautiful parks and couldn’t help but overhear a conversation that was going on between a mother and her child.

“I’m scared of going on the swings, Mommy.”

“There’s nothing to be afraid of, honey.”

“But I am!” the child insisted.

“Nothing is going to happen to you,” the mother continued on sweetly.  “Your brother is already there, look!”

Clearly this child was anxious about going on the swings.  Now at first glance, there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with the way the parent handled this but with a closer look we can understand how this parent, and many more, can handle a case of child anxiety.

How To Handle Child Anxiety

When you are dealing with child anxiety, the first step is actually to validate their emotion, in other words, to make it clear that the child is not wrong for feeling the way he or she does.  Instead of reacting to the child’s anxiety by telling them they have nothing to be afraid of, this parent could have said something along the lines of “boy it must be hard to feel scared of doing something you want to do.  You know, even grown-ups feel scared some time.”  What a wonderful way to make a child feel less anxious.  You let them know that their emotions are not strange or bad and you empower them to ask questions by admitting the truth- that even adults feel anxiety.  This allows them to ask you for help in coming up with solutions to their problems.   This conversation was also an opportunity for a parent to let the child know that bravery isn’t doing something that they are not afraid of, but rather doing something that they ARE afraid of, despite the fear.  Being mindful of opportunities to help our anxious children isn’t easy but it sure allows us to tremendously help them.

– Dr. Jeffrey Kranzler, Proliance Center

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