How to help kids with anxiety who seek constant reassurance
Children who experience anxiety may seek constant reassurance from their parents about the same situation over and over again and this can become an unhelpful way of coping.
It is natural to want to reassure a distressed child but providing constant reassurance to a child who is experiencing excessive worry or anxiety can backfire for the child and the parents.
Children can use reassurance-seeking behaviour as a distraction technique which may provide temporary relief from their discomfort but it also reinforces to the child that they do not have the capacity to manage the feelings they are having on their own.
For parents, it can become exhausting as no matter how much reassurance the child is given they are only comforted for a short period of time before they need more reassurance.
When reassurance is given this can send a message to the child that the unpleasant thoughts they are having must be very important, and that they need to pay attention to them. This is the opposite of what we would like to teach children about anxiety.
In addition repeatedly reassuring a child can send a message to the child that their parents are not confident that they are able to cope with the situation.
Children can learn to manage worries, fears and anxiety in healthy ways with a little support. This helps them to have a sense of independence and competence.
Things a child can do to manage anxious feelings
- Slow breathing
- Visualising a calming place
- Help them be more comfortable with uncertainty
- Not allowing avoidance of anxiety-provoking activities
So what can a parent do to assist a child who is experiencing excessive worry or anxiety?
Parents can have a conversation with the child to explain that their feelings are normal and that it will be better for them if they are able to learn how to handle their feelings on their own. They can also explain that reassurance will be given but it will be limited.
Phrases like those below can be helpful
- We agreed that I can’t answer that
- It sounds like you are feeling anxious – what can you do to feel better?
- You know the answer to that question
- I know you’re feeling anxious, but you’ll have to figure this one out yourself
Of course if you feel your child’s worries or fears are concerning please see your Doctor for a Mental Health Care Plan to see a specialist like myself who works with children with anxiety.
If you would like support with your parenting from the comfort of your own home at a time that suits I now offer parenting coach session online. For more information about the services I provide visit my parenting coach page https://debbicarberry.com.au/child-counselling/parent-coaching/
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