Updated: Aug 18, 2020
The minds of children are very impressionable. What they seek at the age of adolescence remains and reflects throughout their future. Whatever they are taught or said to has to be done with utmost precaution and care, to make the best of them while they’re grown up. The life of an adult is very difficult when the burden of responsibilities falls on its shoulder. But the basis of handling that difficulty is something that a child learns each year while growing up.
A child doesn’t particularly know the meaning and the reason behind anything until taught about. So, at every stage, his eagerness and willingness start to increase. While all these years of childhood if we say a child can’t suffer anxiety at all, he’s just a child, he’s free and he doesn’t have any responsibilities would just be an understatement. You never know what is going inside a person’s head or what the person is going through until you are the person itself, irrespective of being an adult or a child.
The anxiety of a child is often mistaken with over-worrying. And, when he is told repeatedly that there’s nothing to worry about, everything’s okay when it is not, it makes it even harder for the child to figure what’s going on in his mind. This makes it difficult for him to alleviate his worries. Parents and adults indeed hate to see their children upset but, choosing a set of wrong words to calm them can sometimes have a reverse psychological effect and make it even worse.
So, the first step towards making things right is not neglecting a child’s anxiety. Instead of telling him constantly, everything’s fine; ask until he bursts, what’s bothering?
“So many of the things you might say end up having a paradoxical effect and make the anxiety worse.”- Scott Bea.
1. “Don’t sweat the small stuff.”
You never know what the stuff a child is worried about so will also never understand how big or small the deal is. A situation might seem to be as tiny for you to not worry about it, but might be equally big for the child. While you might be trying to be helpful by telling them that it’s not a big deal and it’s going to be fine but instead you might just be diminishing and neglecting something that comes as a major problem to someone. So, instead of using a phrase like that just encourage the child that he can get through this, no matter how big or small the problem is.
2. Don’t ask leading questions.
“Are you worried?”; “Are you getting anxious?”; “Are you not in the right state of mind?”; All of these are leading questions, leading to more worry instead of decreasing it. A child might not know even if he is worried or suffering anxiety and a direct question like that may lead him to overthink such situations and make his thinking worse. Asking questions such as, “how are you?”, “How are you feeling?”, “what’s on your mind?” might lead the child to believe that you actually care and are here to listen and believe what they say. An anxious child doesn’t speak easily but to make him, building that trust is important.
3.“It’s going to be OK. Trust me.”
You never know what’s going to be okay and what’s not. This might seem to be calming for a short period but doesn’t make it good for the long term. Anxiety just doesn’t vanish when you make someone comfortable about everything being okay in the future when nobody knows what the future holds. So, if in future something like “not good” happens, the children start to disbelieve the people they told about what they feel and lose trust over talking or opening themselves to anyone. They start thinking if they do, everybody’s just going to lie about being okay when it’s never going to be okay. Instead just make him feel the presence of a guardian or friend, making him believe that even if it’s not okay, he still is going to have everybody with him and he’s not going to lose anything over it.
4.“Stop Being Such A Worrier, you’re a big one now.”
The issue that children mostly face from parents is them getting frustrated about being repeatedly told about the unknown problems faced by them. An anxious child is already a lot scared about what’s on his mind when he is shouted upon it makes him even more scared and that sticks inside his head for a longer time than expected. A child doesn’t know how to act or behave mature and scolding or shouting at him doesn’t make him learn that either. It only makes things worse. Instead, making him understand politely even if you’re fed up would have a less impact and could even make him worry less.
5. “Don’t be scared. I am tensed too.”
Telling an anxious person that he shouldn’t be scared and that this happens with everyone, you’re not the only one who doesn’t make him less frightened. For him, his self is what he is concerned about. An anxious or depressed person would never care what’s going on in the world even if he wanted to. It’s a natural process, not something he is willing to do. Anxiety doesn’t ask a person before getting into his head. So, to make him feel better by telling him that everybody faces this and they’ve been there but they didn’t complain about it, neither is a good example nor a way of dealing with the child.
“You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” ~Christopher Robin