Childhood Anxiety Disorder – How to Cope

All parents who have a child with anxiety disorder know how difficult this can be for the child and for the entire family. The anxious child may cling, cry, refuse to engage and throw tantrums. The cause of these symptoms may be biological. The child experiencing anxiety disorder often has lower than average level of serotonin, a neurotransmitter, present in the brain. Some parents resort to antidepressant medication, such as Paxil, which can be effective in some cases. Medication can cause severe side effects and is not recommended for most children. There is, however, an alternative to medication.

Most parents who have a child with an anxiety disorder simply try to avoid all situations that may cause their child stress. This is understandable as it does reduce the chances of a very unpleasant melt-down. If the child doesn’t like to go out, let them stay indoors and so forth. This approach does avoid strain on the family but does not help the child in the long run. The anxious child needs to be able to overcome these fears and learn to cope in life.

The very anxious child needs to be handled with love and care, yet, at the same time; needs to be challenged to overcome their anxiety. It is not simply a matter of sheltering them from trying situations but instead teaching them to cope with conditions that cause them frustration. When anxious children come up against something that causes them fear and then overcome it they get a sense of personal achievement. Children with anxiety disorder need to be conditioned by facing situations with which they are uneasy and experiencing success time and time again. Achievement will build feelings of self-esteem and confidence. Overly anxious children can come to realize that a feeling of fear in a given situation does not mean they have to avoid that situation or give up; they can overcome.

Controlled Activities

It is a great idea to allow the child to participate in semi-controlled activities where they do experience some anxiety but are not left alone to allow the situation to escalate to an out of control level. It is important to give guidance to the child. Remind them to verbalize any problems using a ‘normal voice’. Crying should be reserved for a bad injury. Screaming is for emergencies. Help the child realize the issues are not that bad (what’s the worst that could happen?) and think of their own solutions to the current problem/issue.

Online Learning Games

One way to help an anxious child is though computer games. Online learning games provide a very controlled environment where the anxious child can be challenged and yet experience success. It is important for parents to select age-appropriate online learning games and to monitor the use of the Internet.

There is hope for the child with anxiety disorder. The key is building on the child’s successful experiences to evoke an increased sense of self-esteem. The fear will diminish as the child realizes, “I can do it!”

© Celesta Thiessen

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