We have designed the following steps for you and your child/teen to prepare him/her to tackle the anxiety and related problems. As a parent, you can be an effective guide or coach to your youth during this process. However, you may find that the tools embedded within each step are best used for youth with mild-moderate signs of anxiety. For youth with more severe symptoms, or who have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder or related problem, we recommend treatment with a mental health professional who may be better equipped to assist your child.
Step 1: Helping your youth become an expert on anxiety and related problems
This is a very important first step, as it helps children and teens understand what is happening to them when they experience anxiety and other related problems. Teaching your youth that the worries and physical feelings s/he is experiencing have a name -anxiety- and that millions of other people also have anxiety, can be a great relief. Help your child become an expert on anxiety and/or related problems by providing him or her with facts and important information. To learn how to explain this to your teen, please use these tools:
- Anxiety 101: What You and Your Child Need to Know About Anxiety
- How to Talk to Your Child about Anxiety
- The ABCs of Anxiety: Understanding How Anxiety Works
Step 2: Learning about your youth’s specific anxiety
Reading or explaining to your youth information about his/her specific anxiety or related problem can be a relief all by itself. Sometimes understanding there is a name for what one has, and that one is not alone, works wonders. Invite your youth to join you in reviewing the information outlined on our main page, where anxiety disorders and related problems are described using age appropriate language and relevant examples. If you believe your youth has more than one problem, consider reading all of the relevant pages first by yourself, and then together with your child. Alternatively, if you are not sure your youth’s symptoms fit into any one category, review together those pages that seem the most relevant, or consider going to ementalhealth.ca At ementalhealth.ca you can use their self-assessment measures to help clarify what type of anxiety or related problem your child might have. This knowledge can help your child feel more in control of what is happening to him/her.
Remember: Knowledge is Power!
Step 3: Creating hope that your child can be successful in fighting back his/her anxiety and related problems
Explain to your child that from time to time all kids worry about grades, what is happening in the world, their health, and other things. Having a little worry, some of the time helps us prepare for important things and to be safe. However, your child may be struggling to manage the uncertainty of every day and therefore worries a lot of the time. Unfortunately, life is uncertain and it is impossible to be sure of everything: how the test will turn out, the next big world event, and whether you might get an illness later in life. You can explain that your child’s worry about uncertainty and the “what ifs…” is like a thermostat that is set too high, pumping out hot air in the middle of summer. Tell your child that you will work together, as a team, to give him or her tools to help cope with anxiety and related problems, to help him/her gradually face the fears, so s/he can get the thermostat back to a comfortable setting.
At this early stage your job is to be encouraging and optimistic.
Remind your child that anxiety is fairly common, and s/he is not the only one who feels this way. While the stigma of mental illness remains, increasing positive media coverage as well as celebrities sharing their own personal stories, is actively reducing this stigma. Do a little research and see if you and your child can find out about a celebrity that might be struggling just like your child. Or if available, consider sharing stories about family members or friends who have a mental health condition like your child. But be sure to emphasize how these individuals have coped/ are coping successfully, rather than to focus on the negative impact anxiety can have. While we do not want you to lie or make unrealistic promises, a positive role model can be wonderful for your child.