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Tips for the parent of an anxious child



Parenting a child with anxiety is always hard, but help exists

Parenting a child with anxiety is always hard, but help exists


Anxiety is a normal emotion, even in the best of times. But, as with cases of depression, the pandemic is seeing a rise in clinical anxiety, especially in teenagers. They’re having difficulty sleeping, they’re eating differently and spending even more time on the phone. Clinicians are reaching out not only to kids, but also to you as their parents, offering words of advice and encouragement.

In her “Parental Advisory” column for lifehacker.com, Meghan Moravcik Walbert very helpfully fields a letter from a mom distressed about her ability to properly address her daughter’s increasing anxiety, her dietary changes, sleeplessness, and in particular her apparent need to be around her parents, making it harder for them to tend to two other kids under the same roof. After noting how touched she is by the letter writer’s concern for her daughter, Walbert points out a refreshing aspect: the mom knows she needs help. As she writes: “It’s hard for parents to put themselves first (or even near the top of the list) when so many other fires are burning at the same time.” And yet the mom in distress is, thankfully, doing just that.

Clinical psychologist Dr. Barbara Greenberg weighs in specifically about the daughter’s “proximity seeking,” -- her apparent need to be around her mother more: “My guess is the mother has a lot of anxiety, and moods and anxiety are very contagious,” she says. “I think the kid is picking up on her mother’s anxiety.”

Walbert advises more structure, which, on the face of it, may seem the opposite of what’s needed. As she puts it: “What the family needs right now is more structure during a time when it feels easier (or kinder) to be lax on rules and routines” and feels counterintuitive.

But Greenberg notes a breakdown in household structure can become problematic. Chaos, essentially, increases anxiety. Structure, she maintains, is calming.

The article suggests more structure and, imperatively, self care you, as a  parent. When kids know you’re looking out for yourself, it will calm them and lead them to do the same for themselves.



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