Anxious kids are brave kids. They are creative, thoughtful and have the potential to light the world on fire, every one of them, often in unexpected ways. When anxiety takes hold though, it’s overwhelming. It can shut down their potential, their engagement with the world and their self-belief. It feels awful and life becomes more about avoiding anxiety than it does about embracing life in ways that flourish them. This can be turned around and although anxiety doesn’t generally go away, it can be managed so that it stays in the background and out of their way. For anxious kids, the important adults in their lives are a powerful ally in helping to make this happen.
Let nothing be off-limits.
Let them know that they can come to you with anything. They don’t have to know how to start or how to say it. Let them know that it’s enough to let you know that they have something they want to talk to about, but that they don’t know what to say. The next part you can do together.
Help them with the words for what they might be feeling.
Anything you can do to flourish their emotional vocabulary will help them to make sense of things. Name what you think they might be feeling in a way that makes it easy for them to correct you. ‘You seem angry/ confused/ sad, right now.’ Then let them know that it’s okay for them to feel what they’re feeling, and that you understand. Let them know they make sense to you. It’s a beautiful thing to feel.
Anxiety and courage exist together. Show them.
It can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that brave people do what they do because they are fearless, but anyone who is pushed to the edges of themselves will feel fear. Explain that anxiety is actually a sign that they’re about to do something really brave – otherwise they wouldn’t be anxious about it. What pushes the limits is different for everyone. There will be things that are tough for them that are easy for others, and things that are easy for them (find the things they’re good at) and tough for others. Everyone feels anxiety at some point, but for kids going through it, they can feel like they are the only ones. Model self-belief and normalise anxiety by sharing the times you feel anxious and act brave.
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