Written by: Jennifer Scott, spiritfinder.org
Parents want to protect their children from the sorrow and stresses of life. Achieving this worthy goal requires practical insights as well as noble intentions. In this post, we’ll share strategies for helping your children to face the tests and trials that life will bring their way.
A Realistic Look at Anxiety
Living in the 21st century offers many advantages. Diseases that were once death sentences now yield to routine treatments. The Internet offers unlimited access to education and entertainment. Automobiles are both safer and friendlier to the environment than those made just a few years ago. Social media connects us with friends and family members around the globe.
All of these benefits make it easy to forget that life was once “poor, nasty, brutish, and short,” to use the words of philosopher Thomas Hobbes. Ancient humans had to worry about thousands of things that never cross our mind, like being attacked by hyenas or going hungry because a blight wiped out our food supply.
Our minds developed a system of defenses against these dangers, including an early warning system that today we call anxiety. In its proper context, this sensation steers us away from real-life threats. But, like anything, this helpful emotion becomes hazardous when it occurs too frequently. Some of the many problems that can arise from uncontrolled anxiety include:
- Elevated or uneven heartbeats
- Gastric distress leading to ulcers and other serious conditions
- Prolonged insomnia
- Difficulty thinking or acting rationally
According to doctors at Mayo Clinic, untreated chronic anxiety can even lead to agoraphobia. Those who suffer from this condition go to great lengths to avoid situations that provoke fear or uneasiness. In extreme cases, this disorder can make people afraid to leave their home, imprisoning them inside for months or even years.
Nobody wants their children to face these kinds of debilitating problems. At the same time, ridding them of all anxiety can prevent them from taking common sense precautions, like staying out of bad neighborhoods or replacing the batteries in a smoke detector. So how do parents find a healthy balance between these extremes? Here are some tips from child rearing and mental health experts:
- Recognize that your goal is help your child manage his/her anxiety, not to prevent feelings of anxiousness.
- Help him/her to assess fears in the light of evidence. For example, if he/she worries about going to the dentist, express that dental visits are not only safe but essential for good health. Let him/her meet the dentist and see for herself that the doctor wants to help.
- Reward your child’s courage with verbal praise and other positive feedback. This will help counter fears with self-affirming thoughts and actions, according to writers for Psychology Today.
- Remind the child that feeling anxious, or even overwhelmed, is normal. Young people may feel that anxiety reflects weakness. It’s important to help dispel these negative thoughts.
- Teach youth that making good choices is very important. Using alcohol or illicit drugs to cope with anxiety is never a good idea. At the same time, realize that healthcare providers may prescribe anti-anxiety medication to help youth manage symptoms. Medically supervised use of pharmacological agents is entirely different from substance abuse, as long as the patient follows the prescribed dosage, frequency, and directions and shares any concerns with a qualified practitioner.
Anxiety is part of life. Properly controlled, it can remind us to avoid dangers and prepare for the unexpected. Use the tips in this post to help youth face whatever life brings their way with the caution and confidence that will serve them best.
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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in articles published on NSPNsights are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of National Safe Place Network.