Your child doesn't have to be one of the estimated one in eight kids suffering from an anxiety disorder to be experiencing a ton of stress in their daily life. Since children express their angst differently than adults, it's important for parents to be able recognize the signs and know what to do to help alleviate the anxiety. As you work with your kiddo to help them develop the tools to express their worries in a mature way, Dr. Aarti Gupta, a psychologist and clinical director of TherapyNest: A Center For Anxiety and Family Therapy, has some important tips for what parents could do to help ease their kids' distress.
These are four simple strategies a parent can utilize with their anxious or stressed child:
- Validate their feelings and listen to them: A parent should send a message of acceptance rather than dismissal of the child's worries and fears. It's important to encourage your kids to share their thoughts and feelings, even the little ones, so that he or she will feel safe coming to you when they need to be comforted.
- Reevaluate their schedule: Dr. Gupta warns against overpacking a child's schedule with extracurriculars and playdates. Even if these activities aren't the source of their stress, she explains that often, an anxious child finds comfort in downtime with the family at home.
- Stick to a routine: Parents should make an effort to keep to the same routine as often as possible for the sake of their children. "For kids, especially young children, a predictable routine is comforting, and springing up surprises and new activities could be overwhelming and stressful," Dr. Gupta said. "Try and maintain a regular eat, sleep, and activity schedule as much as possible."
- Don't be afraid to ask for help — even if your kiddo is: If it feels like your child is overwhelmed with stress or increasingly anxious, Dr. Gupta suggests that you seek guidance from a professional trained in cognitive behavioral therapy to help your child learn coping strategies.