If your child has anxiety problems, what are you supposed to do? As a parent, your instinct may tell you to shelter him or her from whatever it is that is causing the anxiety. That is what I would do. But is it the right thing to do?
According to Bruce Hirsch, a counselor at the Frostig Center in Pasadena, CA, the first step in dealing with a child with anxiety problems is to go slowly. He notes:
The first thing I do, especially with an anxious child, is to go very slowly. Because if you immediately focus on their anxiety, you’re going to make the child more anxious. I try to create a very non-threatening environment. If they don’t want to talk much, that’s okay. They may want to do a little drawing instead, or play a game. Then I usually test the waters because all kids are different. I might say, “Gee, Mom and Dad said that you have a lot of trouble falling asleep at night, what do you think about that?” If the child withdraws at that point, I don’t push. Other kids may be relieved that someone’s finally addressing the anxiety so that they can talk about what’s going on.
I totally agree with this approach. What I said in the beginning of this post – sheltering the child – may not be the best wording possible but the idea is the same. At the outset, support and acceptance is what a child with anxiety needs.
What is your take?