“What are you scared of?” 5 words that will change how you deal with your anxious child forever. Let me explain.
My son has anxiety issues. The smallest thing could set him off from having to speak in front of a class; to being out of a routine. Or even seeing me in school when I wasn’t supposed to be there. (Like the time I ran into him picking up a friend’s daughter.) He usually reacts with tears.
When he is having a rough time we usually arent surprised by it, by now we can almost predict it. Usually, it starts on a Sunday night at bedtime. The tears will start and he will say he doesn’t want to go to school. Usually that his belly or his head hurts. The Monday morning feeling. He’s 6.
Then he will grab at his head. Rub the heels of his hands up and down his thighs. Scrunch his face right up. Classic Anxiety.
There have been times-after Christmas- when I knew the cause- he had been out of routine for too long. The thought of going back to school was overwhelming. But knowing what it is and why doesn’t make it any easier. Seeing that sad look in his eyes. Seeing the fear on his face when he is begging me not to send him to school the next day. Or even worse; when we get to school and a member of staff has to literally peel him off of me. That’s just as heartbreaking.
“What are you scared of?”
But then I learned to secret. The 5 words that will change how you deal with your anxious child. “What are you scared of?” I used to ask him “what’s wrong?” and immediately he would be on the defensive and say “nothing!” because framing it in that way almost puts the blame onto him. By asking him what he is scared of it allows him (and you) to step back from the situation and analyze it without blame.
Most of the time he still says “nothing” and therefore comforting himself.
The Child Mind Institute website recommends that: “when helping a child to face their fears, we as parents need to ask specific questions”. Relating them back to what the fear is. “what makes talking in front of your class scary?” We can then help the child to analyze the issues and therefore do two things;
- 1-rid them of the fear
- 2-teach them how to do it for themselves in the future.
To find out more you can have a look at the child mind institute, here: https://childmind.org/article/help-children-manage-fears/
For us, for now, “what are you scared of?” seems to be the way to frame the issue. So he can see it for what it actually is, rather then what he imagines it to be. And for us, for now, it’s working.
Try them, those 5 words that will change how you deal with your anxious child. For us, fear is a concept that we can manage and try to control. The same can’t be said for anxiety.
For younger children I recommend this book:
After all of this happened with her brother and she saw it, we felt it was important for 3 to understand what it meant to be worried and how to deal with it. She had this read to her once and the very next time she was able to tell me the story herself using the pictures. 100% Worth the read!