No parent wants to see their child become distressed by a relatively normal situation – be that going to school, catching a bus, or attending a party. When you see your child upset over these kinds of situations, it can be confusing and upsetting for you too!
The fact of the matter is that the world is filled with things that may cause a child to become anxious – many of which we cannot control. Causes of persistent anxiety in children include frequently moving home, the death of a relative or problems at school (exams, bullying, etc.).
What we can do as adults is to prepare children to manage the elements of life which make them anxious without depending on you to fix everything for them. This should mean that they can take control of situation they find difficult and transform worries into decisions which benefit them in the long-term. Let’s look at some ways you can offer this kind of support.
Consider alternatives to shouting
You’ve probably experienced several moments where you’ve had to shout at your child and demand that they go to a particular event, be it a social occasion, another day of school, or an extracurricular activity.
Shouting can work – but have you considered a different approach? Try asking your child why they are unwilling to attend rather than telling them that they must go because you think they should.
Such conversations will give you a fascinating insight into how your child sees the world around them. It might be that they have very good reasons for worrying about school for example:
- Maybe they are worried that their teacher will heavily criticise them after an exam result
- Perhaps they are embarrassed about the difficulties they are having completing their maths homework.
At this point, it is important to encourage your child to rationalise the problem. Is it worth worrying about? How urgently does it need to be resolved? What actions can they talk right now to make their situation better?
Encourage your child to resolve the situation themselves
With maths homework, the solution could involve them talking to their teacher, explaining that the issues they are facing and working through a solution. That said, there will be times where you have to step in and resolve issues for them.
If, more often than not, they are resolving the issues themselves, they will gain vital life skills. It may seem difficult to let go in this way and leave your child to fend for themselves. However, you should remember that you are a great parent and that the lessons they are learning will help your child for the rest of their life. It may seem difficult to encourage your child to progress anxious situations from tantrums to viable long-term solutions, yet this transformation in thinking is far less difficult to bring about than you may think.
What if your child makes the wrong decision?
Unfortunately, sometimes your child will feel pressurised by a situation and make a decision that you do not agree with. This could involve shouting at their teacher in the middle of a lesson. In this instance it is important to ask them whether they followed the process you both created, so that decision-making would be less stressful, and then help them to think again about how to deal with the situation and its consequences.
As difficult as it may be, you have to encourage your children to deal with their own anxiety, so that they can transform situations which leave them worried into decisions which have a positive long-term impact on their lives.