Parenting during the pandemic has been a momentous struggle for even the most well-adjusted families. So many parents who were balancing pre-pandemic life well are now having a difficult time finding the support they need, accessing resources for themselves and their children, and dealing with increased anxiety symptoms in their children. Consistency is vital for most children, especially for children with anxiety; the pandemic has made any consistency harder than before.
Having an anxious child can make parenting an emotional and challenging journey. Parents of anxious children often feel overwhelmed and stressed, leading to tension in the home and a decreased quality of life. If you are a parent doing their best to support their anxious little one, it can feel isolating and defeating at the worst of times and cautiously optimistic when it's good. Know that you aren't alone in this and that there are ways to help your child and find the support you need to make family life easier and more enjoyable for everyone.
Parents can do a few things to help make parenting an anxious child more manageable.
First, find a support system.
The parents of anxious children must have a support system to help them cope with the stressors of daily tasks. There are many different support systems, so the parents need to find one that works best. Some parents may benefit from talking to a counselor about their parenting struggles, while others may feel more comfortable talking to friends or family members. Regardless of the parent's type of support system, they need to have someone they can rely on. Having a support system as a parent means that you aren't handling everything on your own all of the time, which helps you be a more relaxed parent.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, children having a solid support system can relieve some of their stress. This is because they can rely on their friends and family to provide emotional support when feeling overwhelmed or stressed. This support can help reduce the amount of stress the child is experiencing. It can help normalize how they experience the world, and supportive people around anxious children can help them build a robust sense of self that may struggle to develop otherwise.
Second, try to understand and accept that your child's experience of the world may be different.
There is no one correct answer for helping anxious children, as every child is different. However, some things that may help include:
-Encouraging the child to talk about their anxiety. This can be done positively by praising the child for being brave when they feel anxious or providing a safe space to share their experiences.
-Helping the child to understand their anxiety. This can involve explaining why certain situations make them nervous and helping them to develop coping mechanisms.
-Accepting the child for who they are. This can be difficult, but the family must understand that their child's anxiety is not something that they should be ashamed about. Normalizing anxiety and managing it through coping can change everything for families. A little understanding can go a long way.
-Building structures in your home life can help as it allows the child to know when things will happen and how they will happen without guessing. This can be a tremendous help with bedtime anxiety, mealtime anxiety, or homework anxiety. This step has been the hardest due to the inconsistencies in school, work, and access to childcare since the beginning of the pandemic. It may not be possible to manage each aspect of the day but building some basic routines can help tremendously.
Encouraging children to communicate openly, helping them understand why they feel anxious, accepting that they experience things differently, and creating structures to allow children to grow their trust and understanding of the world provide safety and diminish feelings of shame. Taking these steps can considerably change your and your child's quality of life; it helps normalize their experiences and help grow healthy messages about their abilities that will benefit them in the future.
Finally, ensure that your child has access to resources, such as therapy, to help them cope with their anxiety.
Resources for children with anxiety can look like books and shows about managing anxiety and overwhelming emotion and working with them on anxiety worksheets or workbooks designed for their age group. Making sure that they have access to anxiety-coping activities like art projects and quiet time spaces can help your child to manage their anxiety when it gets too big for them—teaching children to use their hands or the movement of their bodies to alleviate anxiety. Dancing, yoga, and exercise can help children of any age who struggle with anxiety.
If your child has access to resources, such as therapy, that can help them cope with their anxiety; this can be a great start. However, it's important to remember that everyone is different and what works for one person may not work for another. If your child is not comfortable seeking out help, it's okay to encourage them to do so, but be supportive and understanding if they don't feel ready yet.
Parents can model seeking help in therapy by attending therapy to work on their stress, develop strategies to improve their quality of life, and have a safe place to discuss what is going on with their home life. There are times when anxious parents may need to seek therapy for their anxiety symptoms. This can be a great way to show anxious children that it is safe to talk about their struggles with anxiety.
Parents, you are not alone.
Despite the pandemic cutting many parents off from their access to support, childcare, consistent school attendance, and complicating daily tasks, there are small ways to grow structure and help your child's mental health and wellbeing. At the same time, they learn to manage their anxiety.
Remember that anxiety can look different ways in different people and that there are many ways to manage anxiety symptoms. Pressure can range from mild feelings of restlessness or worry to debilitating panic attacks. Children with anxiety may experience difficulty concentrating, making friends, or sleeping. If you or your child is experiencing signs of anxiety, it is vital to seek help from a professional. Many resources help children and their families manage anxiety, including books, online resources, and professional counseling.
Parenting anxious children can be a challenge, but they can overcome their anxiety and thrive with the proper support. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illnesses in the United States, affecting more than 18 million people. So, remember that anxiety is common and that many other parents and children are experiencing something similar. You are not alone in what you are going through, and there is help out there for parents who are struggling to support their anxious children.
National Institute Of Mental Health: