Childhood anxiety is more prevalent these days than you may think, with the Center of Disease Control reporting that 4.4 million children between ages 6-17 years old suffer from an anxiety disorder. From general anxiety disorder to social anxiety disorder to panic disorder, kids suffer from the anxiety disorders similar to adults. However, the difference is that, when it comes to childhood anxiety, someone needs to “parent” the condition…and accommodation is NOT the answer.
“Parent accommodation” is when the child’s caregivers continue to perpetuate their anxiety by avoiding whatever situations are anxiety-provoking. For instance, a parent may let the child avoid certain activities that cause anxiety, or alter the child’s daily routines, and provide reassurance in order to accommodate the child’s stress response.
Why doesn’t this work? This accommodation allows the child to avoid their problems, rather than learn to deal with them. A great part of overcoming anxiety is battling the issue head on—and sometimes failing—but eventually persisting. By avoidance, a child learns that it’s okay to give up, or deny the anxiety, or avoid the situation all together, and may enter into a cycle of giving up and failing without success.
Accommodating childhood anxiety, then, only puts a band-aid on the problem in the short-term. Like when a parent gives in to a tantrum instead of teaching children the skills they need to build inner confidence or handle their emotions in a healthier manner.
If you sense your child has an anxiety disorder, it’s best to see a professional. A mental health professional will be able to support the child with some talk therapy, art therapy, play therapy, or a combination of all. Cognitive behavioral therapy can help your child change anxious thoughts into positive actions. A play therapy or art therapy approach helps children confront their fears through the comfortable and familiar interface of play or creating with their hands.
As a parent, the best thing you can do is model self-confidence to help your child feel calmness. Instead of trying to remove a child from situations that make him or her anxious, you can teach your child to get through their anxiety by showing or modeling for them how to effectively manage the challenges or anxious moments they face.
Creative Counseling Center is here for you. Our counselors help families with a variety of mental health struggles, and we are known as one of the best child therapy centers in the Denver area. Whether you or your children are mourning the loss of a loved one, overcoming past abuse or neglect, or simply managing stress, anxiety or depression, request a free phone consultation today. We’ll listen and learn what’s going on in your or your child’s life and partner you with the best therapist equipped to support you on your journey to joy, fulfillment, and a lot less anxiety.