Does it seem that anxiety has set a place at your dinner table lately?
Do you feel helpless watching your child or loved one as they wrestle with overwhelming fears?
Do you wish you knew how to support their mental health and peace of mind?
Despite the differences in age and responsibility, children and adults alike can experience varying levels of anxiety.
From a young age, kids may develop fear partly due to their intuition. If a child becomes aware of the emotions others around them are carrying, often they will eventually mimic that behavior themselves. Media may also teach them to fear when frightening images instill a sense of horror or suspense. If not addressed early on, these habits can very well carry into teen years and adulthood.
It can be overwhelming to see those you love so much caught in a vicious cycle of fear, knowing you are unable to solve the problem for them. However, both adults and children can benefit from utilizing coping mechanisms and the support of family when struggling with anxious thought patterns.
Whether you are a mother, father, grandmother, sibling, or friend, you CAN come alongside your loved ones and implement several effective strategies to encourage their mental wellbeing.
1. Help your (grand)child minimize stress with relaxation techniques. Encourage him/her to develop hobbies and interests that provide relief and release nervous energy. Sign your son up for soccer, pay for your granddaughter’s dance lessons, or volunteer to watch the little ones so your daughter can attend a weekly book club.
2. Provide a distraction. If your young one’s anxiety rises while at the park, point out the birds in a nearby tree or offer to push him/her on the swing. Does your grown son call in a panic from college? Begin discussing and make plans for his next visit home.
3. Limit the pressure. Often, we may unknowingly place demands or expectations on our children’s heads. Rather than trying to push them to behave in one way or another, listen to his/her perspectives and provide validating feedback.
4. Set aside pockets of time to fret. When “worry time” is scheduled, it may relieve the intensity of stress in other moments of the day. Designate a regular time that your child, young or old, can vent to you openly and receive undivided attention.
5. Encourage self-assurance. Speak to your (grand)child about self-esteem and find opportunities for him/her to develop a greater sense of it. The more confident a person feels, the less room there is for fear or anxiety to creep in.
Overcoming anxiety is a skill that will prove valuable for a lifetime. While you may not be able to remove the element of fear from the lives of your children or grandchildren, you certainly can come alongside them on the journey. By receiving encouragement and discovering proper tools to combat anxiety, your loved ones will have the knowledge and ability to overcome obstacles and protect their peace of mind.
How will you implement these strategies today?