Your daughter is not alone - 1 in 8 children in the U.S. suffers from anxiety. As with all parenting strategies I suggest, there are no quick fixes to helping your daughter overcome the daily struggles of fighting her anxiety, but there are 5 simple key action steps that you can start implementing today that may bring about significant changes in your home.
1. UNDERSTAND ANXIETY
There is a simple and important reason why anxiety is human and needed: Worry protects us. Understanding this, first and foremost, is key to seeing changes in your home regarding your daughter's anxiety. You can't nor should you ever want to eliminate all anxiety in your daughter's world. Having a healthy amount of anxiety provides an internal compass that lets her know what might be an unhealthy risk that she needs to steer away from.
You do want to step in, however, when your daughter's anxiety begins to take its toll on her well-being. Anxiety can make your daughter feel that something overwhelmingly bad will happen and that she will not be able to handle it.
Anxiety can make your daughter feel worried and afraid - at an exaggerated level.
There is a lot you can do to help your daughter live with her anxiety. But, first, in order to do so effectively, it is important for you to understand what anxiety is - delve into Google and get to know the signs of anxiety.
More importantly, delve into your daughter’s life and get to know the signs of anxiety in your daughter - what triggers her anxiety? What happens to her physically or emotionally? Help your daughter to understand her anxiety as well.
Again, anxiety in itself is not alarming. We all become anxious from time to time. When anxiety begins to limit your daughter’s ability to carry out her daily routine it is time to seek professional help.
2. EMBRACE ANXIETY
Do you try to ignore your daughter’s anxiety? Do you find yourself often telling her “Don’t worry” ?
Do you avoid activities that bring your daughter anxiety?
Is your daughter given the space to feel her anxiety, & opportunities to learn strategies for coping/limiting anxiety?
Do you have open, developmentally appropriate conversations about your daughter’s anxiety?
When your daughter is worried/anxious, it hurts you, doesn’t it, Mom? Your first instinct may be to simply tell her not to worry. Oh, if it were only this easy. Here’s a secret: she doesn’t want to worry anymore than you want her to worry - she isn’t worrying by choice!
You may also think that it’s better to avoid putting her into scary situations. I get it. You want to protect her. But, Mom, how will she learn to be OK with social situations if she is never given the opportunity to be around people? Or, how will she overcome her fear of the ocean if she is never given the chance to dip her toes in the water?
Now that you & your daughter understand anxiety and how to recognize it, allow your daughter to embrace it. No, I don’t mean rejoice in it, but I do mean don’t act as if it doesn’t exist. Help her to acknowledge how anxiety makes her feel by having simple, short conversations. Be the calm role model that she needs by her side in order to be able to take baby steps in overcoming her anxiety. A problem we ignore doesn't disappear.
3. RESTATE ANXIETY
You and your daughter have an understanding of what anxiety is and how anxiety makes her feel - you and she have become OK with embracing anxiety as it enters her day. Now, your daughter and you can begin to work on changing her mindset and how she reacts to anxious activities and situations.
Helping her to change her mindset will take time. Start small. Imagine positive outcomes to situations together, even if the situations are unrelated to those that cause her anxiety. There is such power in positive thinking!
Help her to practice mindfulness. This is extremely helpful since, rather than focusing on possible future negative outcomes, your daughter will learn to stay in the moment &
and think deeply only about what she is currently working on.
Help her find peace. Is there a particular song she enjoys that she can play in her head when
she’s feeling anxious? Do you have a family pet that she can snuggle when she’s feeling anxious at home?
Restating a worrying thought into a new action (positive thinking, mindfulness, listening to a calming song, snuggling with a family pet), can bring calm to your daughter during anxious periods.
4. STRUCTURE ANXIETY
Help your daughter take control of her anxiety by structuring it. Sounds crazy, right? Simply put, stay one step ahead of anxiety by learning to do two things: intentionally release anxiety and create effective plans.
You and your daughter understand anxiety. You both embrace anxiety, rather than try to hide from it, in order to learn more about it. You are helping her to restate her anxiety by learning to think positively. Now, you both are ready to take on anxiety and intentionally structure how you face it.
RELEASE ANXIETY: Schedule anxiety sessions with your daughter. Yes, that’s right. Sit down with her and help her to learn how to put her feelings into words through journaling. Or, find literature with characters who have intentionally overcome anxiety. Practice simple yoga poses with her at home.
CREATE A PLAN: For many girls with anxiety, it is the possibility of a future negative scenario that worries them. As they go about their day, worst case scenarios for situations cause constant fear. Help them to think about those fears and brainstorm ways they can choose/plan the outcome. What will happen if she does forget to take her homework to school? What if she does miss the bus in the morning? Most times, the actual consequence isn’t as bad as she thinks.
5. REPLACE ANXIETY GUILT
This one is for you, Momma.
I know it breaks your heart to see your daughter worried about so much in life. It gets you down sometimes. You feel like it’s your fault. Did you make her anxious? Were you not a good role model?
There are so many reasons why your daughter is anxious. At this point, where should your priority be so that you can help her and feel more connected to her? Is it more helpful to think about why she is anxious or to think about ways to help her with her anxiety? I hope you said the latter.
Be patient and kind to your daughter. And, be patient and kind with yourself. Her changes in limiting her anxiety won’t come overnight, but with your dedication to making changes and your own positive attitude, she will make progress.
Email me at ParentCoachAngie@gmail.com & let me if you tried
any of these strategies for helping your anxious daughter.
I'd love to hear about any changes that happened once you did!