Child Anxiety and Fear
Child Anxiety and Fear
How Can Parents Help?
You are not alone if you have a child struggling from anxiety or fear! You may feel hopeless and confused as you try to help your child reduce their anxiety. Sometimes the strategies that once cured a nightmare are no longer effective. You have given I your all, but your child is still afraid of ______ (fill in the blank). Worry is like a plague that is causing your child to have physical symptoms, but in many cases there is nothing medically wrong. Then frustration and your own anxiety sinks in, and you begin to feel like you are not a “good parent”. Oh how common this concern is. It is not a matter of you being a “good parent”, sometimes symptoms can become clinical issues. This is when parents usually reach out for support and help from a therapist.
In part two of this blog we will look at specific things you can do to help reduce your child’s anxiety. You may already practice some of these skills so let this be a validation to all of your hard work. You may ask, “Well, if I am doing all of this why is it not getting any better?” That is a great question. Anxiety and fear can be situational, learned, neurological, or a combination of all three. Sometimes, there may be situations that trigger fear and anxiety, and after a period of time it reduces and symptoms normalize. Learned behaviors and observing people being afraid and anxious can contribute to your child’s own display of anxiety symptoms. If your child’s brain chemistry is not balanced or functioning at an appropriate level it could be the very reason why all the interventions are not working. This is when therapy can be helpful; your child’s counselor will help teach them specific skills targeted to reduce anxiety. When they use these skills it actually takes a neurological calming effect on the brain. Over time, the brain can “re-balance” itself to a healthy state. However, anxiety can be so severe or chronic that specific coping skills, on its own, may not be enough to re-balance the brain’s chemistry. All is not lost, there is still hope at this point of treatment.
If consistent psycho-therapy and daily practice of coping mechanism is not reducing anxiety your therapist may recommend a consultation with a psychiatrist (a doctor treating mental health disorders). For some parents, it can be scary when deciding to seek medication management for their child. AND this is understandable. However, it can be another tool to help the brain accept the new coping skills your child has learned to use. Certain SSRI’s and non-habit forming medications will help support the brain to produce enough neurotransmitter serotonin needed to reduce anxiety. Once the brain is functioning properly it is more likely to accept the new interventions learned in therapy. I would like to say that in my practice I do not rush to recommending medications; it is important that I spend time getting to know your child and develop a safe relationship with him/her. We work as a team and practice coping skills that will target anxiety reduction, and we talk a lot about their fears. However, if I and the parents feel we need to take the next step we will consider a consultation with a psychiatrist or doctor. In many cases this step won’t be necessary, it all depends on what is or is not working. What a great joy it is for me to see such brave children conquer their fears as they practice their skills and talk about it in therapy. When I work with Christian families we utilize faith-based techniques to heal the fear and anxiety. We are able to call on Christ to show us how to challenge our thoughts and fears and ask Him to take it from us. If a person is not of Christian faith we utilize other strategies that will target anxiety reduction. I enjoy helping anyone who is struggling with anxiety, and I am honored to support those who are open to working with me.
Stayed tuned for PART 2 to learn about what parents can do to help reduce their child’s anxiety.