Communication is everything, ensure healthy communication with your child by encouraging them to share their feelings from an early age. Teach them that it’s important to share our worries when we have them, otherwise small worries can grow and grow into huge worries. It’s always best to share them, then they usually get smaller and smaller – until they disappear!
Try not to trivialise or deny their anxiety – however far-fetched their fears or worries may seem to you, your child’s feelings are very real to them. Try not to say “That’s just being silly”. Instead, talk things through.
Try to avoid or remove anything that you feel might trigger anxiety. If situations are unavoidable then try to focus on something positive – it could be an upcoming event, a friend, a toy… channel their attention elsewhere.
Tell your child that you understand how difficult it is to feel anxious and praise them for managing it so well. “I know it’s not nice to feel so worried, but you are doing so well talking about it and doing something about it.”
Try not to promise them that by talking about their fears and worries, “Everything will be ok”. It may not and might make the fear even scarier because it hasn’t gone away.
Always listen to your child, try to get them to explain their fears to you. Empathise with them “I understand this must be very worrying for you” Try not to empower their fear “I hate spiders too” “James hurts other children” Instead try to think of solutions together and have an understanding of why they are worried.
Try to be a good role model. Show your child how you manage anxiety yourself. Children will learn best from seeing you managing your emotions, they are incredibly perceptive.
Prepare for potentially difficult and worrying situations in advance. Be proactive, not reactive – have a plan of what to do before situations get too worrying. i.e. starting a new school: meet up with some of the other new children, meet the teacher, make a timetable …