This blog is reposted from March 2015. Many of our kids are dealing with high levels of anxiety related to the pandemic and online school so it seems like a good time to re-post it.
I recently read an article I loved on how to explain anxiety to children. Even after many years as a child therapist (in a previous career) I have never explained it so well. As I was thinking about why I liked this article so much, I realized that this article is solidly rooted in resiliency theory.
The article, Anxiety in Kids: How to turn it around and protect them for life, starts by explaining "anxiety is a normal response to something dangerous or stressful." Then it gives steps for helping kids cope with anxiety. I am going to list a few of the steps (in bold) and how each corresponds to a strategy for encouraging resiliency (also in bold).
1- Don't try to talk kids out of it. When we validate how our child is feeling, we are teaching them to trust their feelings and perceptions. Sharing feelings is an important skill that resilient children have mastered.
2- Normalize. Feeling anxiety happens to all of us and sometimes it happens for no reason at all. This message conveys parental understanding and support as well as encouraging empathy.
3- Explain why anxiety feels like it does. This is really the brilliant part of this article-- breaking down the body's physiological response to anxiety in kid-friendly language. This helps children believe that they have some control over what is happening in their bodies when anxiety hits. This perception of control is one of the key factors in resiliency.
4- Explain how common anxiety is in adults and kids. Empathy, connection with others, asking for help and peer support all promote resiliency and can result from this step.
Good luck parents, and hang in there. If you find your child's anxiety is impacting their daily activities, please contact their pediatrician for recommendations.