Anxiety!! Sometimes even the word brings a flutter to our hearts. For anyone who has experienced an anxious child, you know that this is something that has become more pervasive in the past few years. Kids today have a lot more external stressors that bring anxiety. Social media influences and an increase in peer pressure are all piling up on kids. Anxiety can take many forms, and, all of us deal with anxiety in some form almost every day. How we handle our anxiety, and how we guide kids to handle their anxiety, may sometimes be different. As adults, we have coping mechanisms that are better developed, however, these same mechanisms may not be as developed in kids. Here are a few things to think about as you help kids deal with this issue.
- Acknowledge that the anxiety is real. Many times kids seem to be anxious over things that we as adults view as “non-essential” or “no big deal.” If you are going to help a kid deal with his anxiety, you must acknowledge that he is genuinely anxious about something that is real to him.
- Don’t avoid activities that might cause anxiety. Kids can learn that things that may make them anxious, most often, won’t actually harm them. By avoiding situations that may cause anxiety, you may inadvertently create a situation where a child will never learn to deal with her anxiety.
- Communicate. When talking about anxiety, really listen, and really talk. Make sure you ask questions that will help the child think through what is causing the anxiety and suggest possible solutions respecting the child’s feelings. Ask open-ended questions that aren’t leading. Share experiences you may have had with the same kind of stressor and how you handled the experience.
- Model appropriate responses. One of the best ways to help a child deal with anxiety is to model for them appropriate responses to stressors. By modeling calm responses, kids can copy your behavior when they discover their anxiousness might not really be a threat to their safety.
- Pray with the child. Pray for God’s peace in the situation. Prayer is important and by letting kids hear you pray for them by name, sometimes the anxious feelings they have will lessen.
I recently chatted with a child whom I know struggles with anxiety and asked what advice she could offer to kids struggling with anxiety. The answer I received was, “Trust that God is in control. When I start thinking about things that cause me stress, I try to pray and ask God to help me know that most of what I stress about never even happens.” Taking this advice, let kids know that God is in control and kids (and adults) can always turn to Him when struggling with anxious feelings.
Tim Pollard is passionate about helping kids dig deep into Scripture, which he pursues through his daily work as leader of the Explore the Bible: Kids team. Tim lives with his wife and daughters in Mount Juliet, TN.