The Dos and Don'ts of Parenting an Anxious Kid
By Stonewater Recovery · 3 minute read
If you suffer from anxiety, the worst thing you can hear is, just relax; everything will be fine. But it's not fine. If you've never experienced anxiety, you don't understand that in the middle of an attack, the world is burning, the walls are caving in, and at times, the disorder can manifest in severe physical pain. It makes menial tasks overwhelming and day-to-day responsibilities impossible. So, what should you do if your son is suffering from anxiety? Stop, listen, and support. It's common to hear people say they are anxious but diagnosed anxiety and nervous moments are apples and oranges. If you're on the other side of the disorder, it's easy to say automatic responses. Have you said any of these phrases before? -You need to let it go. -Worrying won't get you anywhere. -Just breathe. It's no big deal. -You just need to relax. To someone with anxiety, these statements are fuel for the anxious fire. You believe you are helping, but here is what the anxious person hears: -You're being a baby. -You're not strong enough to beat this. -Your feelings aren't valid. -Your problem isn't real. At first, you may not believe these statements, but they reinforce the truth about anxiety. It's a mental health disorder that causes a serious disruption in one's health. And if you've never experienced it, it's hard to empathize. The anxiety victim is lost in a world of negative and worrisome mental chatter with a body that feels as though it's having a heart attack. Anxiety isn't stage fright, a nervous stomach, or a slight phobia. It's sheer panic. But helping the anxious person is easier than you think. The next time your son is having an anxious moment or panic attack, here are some questions and suggestions to help aide him without causing harm:
Questions-What are you feeling right now? -Can you name or see the feeling in your mind? -What do you think is causing this feeling? -Is there anything I can do in this moment to help? These questions may get the ball rolling, but often a person needs time before they are able to verbalize their feelings. You can offer food, a walk, and even some space. You can also help your son by reminding him of some positive coping mechanisms: -Hot shower/bath -Breathing/meditation techniques -Phone a friend -Watch a favorite movie/show -Journal/color/draw -Favorite physical hobby/sport Sometimes the person is so frozen in their attack, there isn't much to offer. They simply need time. In this case, you can offer reassurance. These phrases provide solace, even if it doesn't feel like it in the moment. -I'm here if you need me. -Your feelings are valid. -I know you're in pain, but you're not alone. -The feeling is there, but it can't hurt you. Not every person's anxiety will manifest in the same way, and not every kid will respond to the same techniques. It takes time to understand mental health and what will work during the tougher moments.
When to Seek TreatmentYou've probably heard or used the term anxious kid. Some bodies are simply built that way, and that's okay. But if the anxiety is moving into everyday life, if it's stopping your teen from living, then it's time for an intervention. While people suffering from anxiety have good days, that doesn't mean the problem has magically gone away. The feelings can be masked by distractions, substance, and other negative coping mechanisms. If you start to see a decline in social behaviors, recurrent cancelled plans, and the inability to express their feelings, it may be time for help from a licensed professional that can offer your son coping mechanisms and life skills to live a healthy and functional future. Some parents struggle at this stage of mental health issues, and that's okay. It's okay to reach out for help. No one needs to play the blame game. Think about it this way: if you break your arm, you go to a doctor to reset the bone, get a cast, and go to physical therapy to heal the injury. We wouldn't do it any other way. Mental health is the same, but if feels harder to assess because we can't see a physical problem. Sometimes we need to go to a trained professional to help us reset our perspectives, get a mental cast, and practice strengthening our coping mechanisms to get back on track.
If your son is struggling with anxiety and nothing seems to be helping, it may be time for outside support. Stonewater Adolescent Recovery Center will create an individualized treatment program for your son that will focus on his needs, his mental health issues and his addictions. Let us help your child bridge the gap to a world filled with joy instead of fear. Call today at (662) 478-9463.