From Worrier to Warrior: Helping you Child be Less Fearful
Many children and adolescents struggle with feelings of stress and anxiety. In a world filled with school, extracurriculars, busy social lives, sports, clubs, volunteering and more, it’s not hard to see where stress can creep into children’s lives. Luckily, Amy Przeworski of PsychologyToday.com has some helpful tips to turn your worrier into a warrior.
1. Help your child face their fears. Oftentimes, avoiding stressful situations only causes more uncertainty and worry. Try encouraging your child to face their fears and help them through the situation that makes them the most nervous. If your child fears large crowds, start by taking them somewhere where you can slowly ease into crowds, and be sure to talk to them through it. After 20-45 minutes, your child should start to adjust to the situation and they should feel more relaxed. When they start to calm down, they may realize the situation may not be so bad.
2. Remind your child that it’s okay to be imperfect. Many kids feel pressure to succeed, and subsequently, have a fear of failure. Remember to tell your child that working hard and trying your best is always important, but that it’s perfectly okay to fail sometimes. Remind them that you love them unconditionally, and that they shouldn’t let a fear of failure stop them from trying new things and living a happy life.
3. Remember the positives. Fears often arise from focusing on the negatives in life. Instead, make sure your child always sees the best in every situation. As a fun activity, get your child to write down one good thing that happened to them every day. Keep these happy moments in a jar or box, and look over them together when your child is feeling stressed. Seeing the positive in every day can be a big help in reducing fears!
4. Reward bravery. If you notice your child doing something brave, make sure you acknowledge it! A compliment, a hug, a trip to the playground – anything! Research shows that behaviors that are rewarded are much more likely to continue than behaviors that aren’t. No matter how you do it, make sure your child feels good about their brave behavior.
5. Listen. Make sure your child feels listened to when they express their fears. If they don’t feel comfortable opening up to you, their worries will only worsen and be harder to solve. Instead, try making them feel safe within the conversation. If they express their fear to you, say “Yes I noticed you seem a bit worried. Why do you feel that way and how can I help you?” Having an open and honest conversation with your child will do a lot to ease their worries.
6. Use relaxation techniques. In a moment of stress, try using relaxation exercises with your child. Focus on taking slow, deep breaths together. Then, get them to imagine a relaxing place that they enjoy. This could be a beach, a library, their grandmother’s house, anywhere! Next, ask them to use all their senses to imagine this place. If they’re picturing the library, get them to think about the smell of the books, the feel of the carpet, and so on. Imagining their favourite place will help your child feel safe and relaxed.
7. Don’t give up! Although it can sometimes feel like you’re going in circles, repetition is important, so continue with the routine. Eventually your child will learn to stay calm in stressful situations, and deal with their emotions in a productive and positive way. Keep it up!