My child has anxiety: three things not to do and three to manage it better

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Philippe Gloaguen
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My son has anxiety

It affects more and more children and adolescents and manifests itself with a generalized sense of malaise: what to do if our child has anxiety? How to manage an anxious child, perhaps in a school or social setting? 

In this article

  • Symptoms of anxiety in children
  • The causes of anxiety
  • What to do if anxiety comes?
  • Three things not to do
  • Three tips for managing your child's anxiety
  • How to prevent anxiety in children

Symptoms of anxiety in children

Anxiety can go hand in hand with symptoms among the most varied, such as

  • nausea,
  • bellyache,
  • diarrhea,
  • headache,
  • soft legs,
  • sweaty hands,
  • psoriasis,
  • tachycardia.

Disorders that come when one least expects them, even in times when everything seems to go smoothly. Instead, anxiety is always the sign of a malaise, long suffocated under the ashes.

Why does anxiety come, how to prevent it and what to do when it comes? interviewed an expert on the subject, the adolescent psychotherapist Stefania Andreoli, who wrote the book "Mamma ho l'ansia" (ed. Rizzoli) on the topic of anxiety.

Read also: Are you an anxiety-inducing parent?

The causes of anxiety

Behind the anxiety there are the various stresses to which today's kids are subjected: competitiveness, performance anxiety and above all fear of disappointing the expectations of parents, who are increasingly committed to guaranteeing their children a life that is as happy and free from sacrifices and suffering as possible.

At the origin of the anxiety is the Super-Parent who invests everything in the child.

Once upon a time there were standard parents: the father worked all day, came back tired in the evening, ate dinner and went to sleep (and woe betide him!); the mother stayed at home and looked after her children (and she also covered any defects of the children in the eyes of her father). It was like this in all families and no one questioned whether it worked or not. "Today there is no longer a single model" explains the psychologist, "everyone is a parent as they see fit and is committed to guaranteeing the best of the best for their children, in a sort of competition between parents who offers more, to who gives more to raise happy children who have everything. Often as a form of compensation for what they, when they were children, did not have ".

With all these beautiful premises, our son has a reassuring and satisfying experience in his childhood. But then adolescence arrives and the little boy realizes that maybe it's not all that wonder they had made him believe up to that moment.

Here then comes anxiety, which becomes the perfect alibi to get off the train and let us let go..

Read also: How not to transmit anxiety to children

What to do if anxiety comes?

"There is no right and effective approach for everyone, because a lot depends on the individual situation that originated the anxiety. This is why the ideal is to rely on an expert. However, there are three behaviors that are certainly wrong. And three tips that are valid for everyone.

Three things not to do

  1. Don't minimize. Pat on the back, say 'it's nothing, don't think about it'. These are phrases that make you feel even less understood and convince you to be imaginary sick, when those who have anxiety attacks are really sick.
  2. Don't push. Another mistake is to encourage you to take courage, get a move on, put some good will in it, remind him that 'the other time it went well, why should it go wrong this time?' If he succeeded, he would already do it with him!
  3. Do not say: 'You will see that, as it came, it will pass'. If she has come, there is a reason and pretending nothing has happened will certainly not let her pass.

Three tips for managing your child's anxiety

  1. Accept the anxiety. “If the anxiety came, it was precisely to bring to the surface thoughts and emotions that have long been suffocated within us, so we must not be in a hurry to send it away, but give it time to 'deliver its message'. And at the same time invite the boy to talk about it, to find the words to express what he has inside. Only in this way there will no longer be the need to let the body 'speak' with the various manifestations of anxiety ”explains the psychotherapist.
  2. Accept the child we have. This is what the boy needs most: to feel entitled to stay as he is, without anyone judging him, putting pressure on him or giving him too many sermons, given that if he is sick it is precisely because too many expectations have been created around him. Feeling welcomed and loved for who he is in that moment, even if he hasn't become 'the most' in every field. And even if he has anxiety. “And the parent simply has to be found, to be felt present. As the sea does when the river full of debris arrives: it simply welcomes it because it is bigger and has more space ”comments Stefania Andreoli.
  3. Let him find his way. It is difficult for a parent to stand there and see his child in pain and the temptation to 'do' something is great. "On the other hand, the most correct behavior is precisely to step aside, both because for many years he has already done too much, and because otherwise the child grows up with the idea that he cannot solve anything on his own and always needs external help. ”Says Andreoli. “Let us instead transmit to him the message that the challenge of growing up, of becoming great, belongs to him, and that we are confident that he will be able to find his way. And when he gets the anxiety attack, rather than rushing to fill him with advice and do something ourselves, let's ask him: 'what would you like me to do, how can I help you?' At first he will surely tell us that he doesn't know. Let's bear it and wait: a little at a time he will understand it by himself ".

How to prevent anxiety in children

  • Give our children the freedom to make mistakes

We renounce the idea that everything must always go perfectly well, that they must always be happy, that they must always be in very good condition. It is normal to make mistakes, to have disappointments, to be fragile. Mistake is part of the game of life.

  • Accept conflicts and quarrels with children

One of the best antidotes to anxiety is to let your children go through a classic adolescence. And classic adolescence is made up of clashes between parents and children. We must not be afraid of them and try to avoid them at all costs. "We must allow children the opportunity to experience the frustration of conflict with adults. And adults must have broad enough shoulders to be hated by their children when they say no", Andreoli emphasizes.

  • Don't take our problems on them

A teenager has his little big problems and we have to leave him his 'stage', without pouring our problems onto him. Both because the things of adults must be resolved between adults and we must not make the children worry about us, and because a teenager must feel free to live his problems as a teenager, to go through failures, without fear of making parents worry (who they react with the classic phrase 'with all the problems I have, you put yourself in it too!'). "Today's teenagers, on the other hand, are protective of their parents, they worry about them and get anxious so as not to upset them" is the expert's comment.

  • Trust other reference figures

Coaches, teachers, babysitters, parents of other friends: we recover the trust in other figures to whom we entrust our children. Without questioning their work, convinced that ours is always the best. Even if others will not always be perfect. We aren't either.

  • anxiety
  • prevent anxiety
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