7 Ways to Encourage an Anxious Child to Talk About their Worries
BY DYAN ROBSON
Photo © Yupa Watchanakit/123RF
Dec 6, 2019
If you have an anxious child, then you're likely already familiar with the physical signs of anxiety and your child's reactions to those worries, whether it's fight, flight or freeze. But sometimes it's helpful to get a better understanding of what your child is worrying about in the first place, so that you can help them manage their anxiety.
So how do you do that exactly?
Well, here are seven ways you can encourage your anxious child to open up and talk about their worries with you.
Teach Them How to Identify Anxiety
If you want your anxious child to open up about their anxiety, it's important to give them the information they need to effectively communicate it in the first place. That means, you need to teach them how to recognize the way emotions feel in their bodies and how to properly label those emotions. You can't expect a child to tell you, "Hey mom, I'm scared" if they don't really know what scared feels like, or what it's even called.
Try Worry Time
You can also try worry time. It's where you schedule a time to sit down and discuss your child's worries with them on a regular basis. It could be daily or even weekly. Basically, you want to give them a set period of time where they are allowed to worry as much as they want and talk about those worries together with you, without judgment. Here's more information about what worry time is.
Keep a Worry Box
Part of worry time is keeping a worry box. This worry box can be imaginary or it can be real, but it's a space where your child can store their worries or anxious thoughts until worry time. Often the act of writing the worry down itself can be quite freeing.
Encourage Your Child to Keep a Journal or a Worry Log
Instead of a worry box, you could encourage your child to keep a journal, or use a worry tracker to jot down any worries they have throughout the day. This journal could be kept private, or they might choose to share the things they jotted down during worry time. That's for your child to decide.
You May Also Find This Helpful: Strategies For Parenting Kids Who Have Anxiety
Opt for Open-Ended Questions
When asking your child about their worries, avoid leading questions and instead, opt for open-ended ones. Asking leading questions will do one of two things, if not both. One, it will likely cause more anxiety. Two, it will cause your child to shut down, meaning that they probably won't want to talk about it with you. It's best to just stick to open-ended questions that give your child the chance to respond with more detail, if they choose, instead of responding with a simple yes or no.
Be Supportive, Open and Respectful
When your child does decide to open up and discuss their worries with you, it's important to listen. More importantly, don't belittle or dismiss your child's fears, no matter how small they might seem to you. You want to be empathetic and encouraging, while respecting your child's feelings and their willingness to share those feelings with you.
Collaborate and Problem Solve Together
If you want your child to feel comfortable sharing their worries with you now and in the future, then work together to help your child think things through to problem solve. They want your guidance instead of you shutting them down, or telling them what to do. Hint: don't tell them to suck it up! Instead, take a collaborative approach where you can help guide them to come up with ways to manage their anxiety. This tip ties into the tip above about being supportive and respectful. The key here is to build trust. When they trust you, they'll feel comfortable coming to you for help with their worries.
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