When should I seek professional help for my anxious child?

We can all remember events in our lives that made us feel so anxious we wanted to crawl into a hole and never come out. What we remember most about these is the overall awful feeling that we felt all throughout our bodies and prayed it would never happen to us again …but of course it did. When we had children, we wanted to protect them from these feelings, however, we worked out very quickly that that was impossible.

Funny enough anxiety is a normal reaction to everyday things and all of us will experience it in one form or another. Anxiety can start in infant years when we separate from our parents. The toddlers years are full of worries about being alone or the dark. School-age children begin to worry about their performance on tests and in social situations. Adolescents will worry about their looks and their future. But what happens when these fears appear to be worst for your child than other children their age? Or what should you do if you think your child’s worries are interfering with their day-to-day functioning?

Ways to support your child

There are several ways that you can support your child if he/she shows some signs of anxiety:

  • Do not criticise or make fun of your child’s fear
  • Acknowledge their anxiety and take the time to listen to them
  • Gently encourage your child to do things that make them anxious – just like facing your fears
  • Praise your child for trying to do these anxiety provoking things instead of criticism them for being afraid.

When to seek professional help

How do we know if our child’s anxiety has gone past the point of being “just a normal worry”.

Questions to ask yourself are:

  • Is my child’s anxiety interfering with his everyday social, school, and home life?
  • Is my child spending a huge amount of his day worrying about this fear?
  • Is it extremely difficult to settle my child when he/she is worrying about this?
  • Do you feel that your child should have conquered this fear a long time ago?

If you answered yes to these questions, then consider seeking professional help.

France Slattery, Clinical Psychologist

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