How to Calm Your Anxious Child

Anxiety in Children

The world is overpopulated with worried children. Too often, we seem to label our children with those traits we fear within ourselves: needy, anxious, lonely, frightened. Childhood is strewn with forced identities, so much so that by the time our children grow into adults, they've forgotten that they are simply themselves. As a result, generations of young adults search for their "selves" in others. They grow despondent when it seems as if there's no answer to who they are; they worry about when they'll finally feel right .

Well, as a parent, honestly, do you feel right? Are you trying labels out on yourself until one sticks, or are you truly comfortable in your skin? I believe parents must separate their own insecurities from their kids. Children should see firsthand how to close the distance between who they are and who they think they should be. Without perspective on the struggle for our own identities, we really can't expect to raise anything but anxious kids.

A Steady Tread

As a teacher and a parent, I've seen countless examples of families constructed around the idea of we all go up, we all go down . When their child isn't chosen for a team, these same parents act is if they've been ignored on the playground; when their kid doesn't get the part in the play, these parents feel slighted by the director. These parents regard the daily troubles of their children as troubling. It seems impossible for them to recognize the separation of their own fears and their child's, and by doing so, they create a tract of anxiety. Their lives become draped in the sense that something is always wrong, and as a result, their children feel this way, too. No wonder these kids are anxious.

Parenting a child requires a steady tread. When a stressful situation arises, a good parent models patience and persistence, rather than reflect the turmoil at those around him. When your child stresses about a Math test at school tomorrow, you must stay level; when your child complains that Britney picks on her at school, you can't let memories of your personal "Britney" rule over your response to her. An unspoken truth about parenting is that you must check yourself before considering your child. Many parents, while willing to accept that kids can become products of their expectations, miss the point that parental expectations are mostly conveyed through responses to the world, not responses to children. When life is at its craziest, a good parent is always most sane.

Reward Serenity

How, then, do you calm your anxious child? Find a sense of serenity in yourself. Every time you reaffirm that your child is anxious, however well-intentioned you are, you perpetuate his fear. It isn't "ignoring the problem" to treat your child as capable. It's responsible. If you have spent years building an anxious child, expect to spend years correcting your mistake. Expect to spend years correcting the mistakes you've made within yourself, too; this is at the heart of creating a sphere of emotional repose. Reward a sense of serenity in yourself and your child by growing more at ease with who you both are, mistakes and all.

Make sure to respond to your child's cries of worry in relaxed tones. Direct his agitation towards a peaceful place. Define the role that all parents must accept when raising happy, healthy children: be happy and healthy yourself. Offer your child a consistent, long-term sense of composure, and you'll surely get the same in return.

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DoItForHer 6 years ago

I've found that role modeling has been the most influential method of parenting that I use. I had also found out how much of a hypocrite I was before I started becoming the person that I wanted my daughter to role model. Took a little work at first, and as I improved more, she improved more. A great feeling that is.

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shogan 6 years ago from New England Author

It takes a lot to admit that to yourself, DoItForHer. I came to the same conclusion at one point. So many of us expect our kids to be so much better than what we are. What a weird expectation, huh?

angela_michelle profile image

angela_michelle 6 years ago from United States

This is a very important concept, I think many parents need to follow some of this advice. Although, it's often much harder than it appears.

shogan profile image

shogan 6 years ago from New England Author

Agreed, angela_michelle, it is hard if you're not used to it. Many people should calm themselves, even without children in the picture.

duffsmom profile image

duffsmom 6 years ago from Pacific Northwest, USA

So true. Parenting is not for the weak, but I loved every minute of it!

Mandeeadair profile image

Mandeeadair 6 years ago from California

So very true and well written! My child can get very anxious, but when I am calm and treat her as capable she does much better :)! Thanks for the reminder and great advice!

DzyMsLizzy profile image

DzyMsLizzy 6 years ago from Oakley, CA

Excellent points!

I am very comfortable with who I am...the problem being, who I am and what I love/enjoy doing doesn't bring in any income, so I have to subvert myself and my concept of 'dream job' to the necessity of making a living..of sorts..and that, in turn, produces great anxiety and stress.

My children, luckily, are adults and I'm a some extent, this has always been the case..income over 'do what you love.'

I tried very hard to stress to my kids to be themselves and pooh-pooh what others 'think.' It only worked on one of them...

shogan profile image

shogan 6 years ago from New England Author

duffsmom, well said. Parenting is not for the weak. A good parent can't afford to allow his/her weaknesses to tarnish a child.

shogan profile image

shogan 6 years ago from New England Author

Mandeeadair, thanks for the compliment. Isn't it interesting that parents who complain about their worried children often do so with visible frustration? This rubs off. As you know, taking a deep breath and coming from a calm place works so much better.

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shogan 6 years ago from New England Author

DzyMsLizzy, thanks for reading. Unfortunately, that's the case with many (if not most) people. Making ends meet, however, should never be used as an excuse for being constantly agitated. Doesn't it seem like a lot of people do just that?

Congratulations on Grandma-hood. That means you've paid some real dues! :)

robie2 profile image

robie2 6 years ago from Central New Jersey

You bring up a really important point and in today's hurried world, children have so much on their little shoulders. Why do we parents project our hopes dreams and needs on to our little ones-- it is a terrible burden that we make them carry. Great hub

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shogan 6 years ago from New England Author

Thanks, robie2. I suppose there's another hub hidden inside this one, which has to do with the "big picture" of what you're saying.

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Eaglekiwi 6 years ago from -Oceania

Great hub ,as a mother of now adult sons I quickly remembered those anxious moments ,some trivial ,some more persistant.

I think a wise parent will do their best to create a calm and positive environment,but then be wise enough to allow some anxiety to allow their child to grow through experience and self-awareness.

I loathe stereotypes and any labels that tend to limit anyones personality or self-esteem.

To your best life x

izettl profile image

izettl 6 years ago from The Great Northwest

Good advice here and you speak the truth on so many real issues.I love this: "Parenting a child requires a steady tread. When a stressful situation arises, a good parent models patience and persistence, rather than reflect the turmoil at those around him." I'll keep that on my refrigerator. I've always been self-assured and eas-going but the last couple of years, having a daughter who had some health issues and myself being recently diagnosed with my own health issue has turned things upside down and I've had to search my new identity all over again. At times I think my daughter was taught to be anxious by me because of times when I had no idea what was going on with her when I made panicked calls to the dr. I've always felt like the one who kept it "together" for everyone else but we all have a breaking point. Perhaps parents aren't able to relax as much because of the pressure put on them and reflects in their children as pressure and anxiety.

I think this hub was terrific and really addresses current parenting issues. Great hub!

shogan profile image

shogan 6 years ago from New England Author

Eaglekiwi, that's a great point. Allowing for moments of discomfort and anxiety (largely the focus of my hub Helping Children to Fail Well) is necessary, and isn't the same as creating an anxious child. Thanks for bringing that up.

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shogan 6 years ago from New England Author

izettl, I made the fridge! Yah!

Seriously, I really love your response, because it's exactly what I'm talking about in this hub. It's so easy to slip into an anxious mode as a parent; it's also easy for a child to begin to reflect that stress. There are lots of factors that could affect your daughter's level of anxiety, but you don't want to be one of them. It sounds to me like you're quite a thoughtful parent.

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yankeeintexas 6 years ago from Lubbock, Texas

Good hub! Very useful!

shogan profile image

shogan 6 years ago from New England Author

Thank you, yankeeintexas...much appreciated!

Darrke Thoughts profile image

Darrke Thoughts 6 years ago from Eugene, Oregon, USA

Great advice. My mom finally learned to "let go" like you are suggesting when I was ... well, 35 or 40. Makes life easier on your kid even at that age, and we've grown so much closer since we can each have our own life now.

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shogan 6 years ago from New England Author

Darrke Thoughts, first off, I really like your avatar. It reminds me a lot of my youngest, with the fine blond hair all over the place. :) Second, thanks for the nice remark. Was your mother a little anxious herself when you were younger?

StarCreate profile image

StarCreate 6 years ago from Spain

Very important points you raise. It's very difficult I think for a parent with their own neurotic issues to step back from the situation and see how their kids are mirroring their projected issues, instead of being allowed to react to life's everyday challenges naturally. I have a good friend who catastrophises everything... and its now intensely worried that her pre-teen daughter is heading for a breakdown, when in fact if the poor girl has a problem it's her well-intentioned mother building everything up into the next huge drama... how on earth can one intervene? It's very difficult to be a friend in a situation like that, especially having seen her cut of other mutual friends for daring to say anything...

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shogan 6 years ago from New England Author

Yes, it's very hard, StarCreate. Whatever you decide to do, be direct and calm when you do it. It's amazing how often we anxiously try to help someone deal with anxiety. Sincerely ask her what it is she's really worried about. I guarantee you it isn't what she's saying it is. Before she can calm herself, she'll need to get to the heart of whatever that larger issue is.

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TPSicotte 6 years ago from The Great White North

Hey we are the parents. We're supposed to help our kids learn to manage the ups and downs of life and teach coping skills not model chicken little behavior. Great hub from a unique perspective.

I feel like a broken record about telling people to focus in the behavior they want and ignoring the stuff that doesn't work. Sometimes our attempt to identify and empathize with out kids unintentionally reinforces their behavior and sometimes their affect. When it becomes a pattern usually that is exactly what has happened. Unfortunately many parents sometimes lack the objectivity to see the unhealthy pattern in themselves and their children(including yours truly).

shogan profile image

shogan 6 years ago from New England Author

Perhaps you slip at times, TPSicotte, but you definitely have the ability to reflect and revise, as evidenced by your comments. As you mention, so many parents seem unable to look at themselves objectively. If your first response as a parent is to worry, you are ensuring that your children will respond to life the same way.

Thanks for reading, and leaving your comments. I appreciate it.

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