- Family and Parenting
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.
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.