Coping with Situations That Cause Anxiety
As much as parents and other caregivers would love to prevent and protect children from experiencing anxious feelings, there is obviously no way, even under the most ideal circumstances, to eliminate anxiety in a child’s world. Below are some tips on how to handle common anxiety-provoking situations.
For Children Anxious about Divorce:
It is very important to keep routines as similar as possible between households (i.e., same bedtimes, same mealtimes, homework after snack, etc.). Parents should recognize their children’s feelings and talk with them about what can help them feel better. Use of transition objects such as teddy bears, blankets, pictures of family, etc., which go back and forth to each house to help children feel more comfortable is important as well.
For Children Anxious about Moving:
Prepare children as much as possible for where the new home will be, what it looks like, where their room is. Tour the house with them and show them their rooms, etc. Allow the children to help decorate the house so they feel it is partly theirs as well. Take pictures of the old home and room to make a scrapbook to have with them. If moving away from friends/family, get an address book to have for letter writing.
For Children Anxious about Terrorism/World Events:
Limit the amount of exposure children have to such events. When they are exposed, talk with them about their feelings, normalize their feelings and help them find ways to feel better. Talk with them about positive things that have happened recently and what they can do to make positive events happen (i.e. plant a tree, visit a nursing home, give to the poor). Let them know what you do to keep them safe.
For Children Anxious about the First Day of School:
Take them to the school to meet the teacher and see the classroom, etc. Have them write and/or draw pictures about what will happen from the time they leave the house until they come home. Allow them to take a picture with them that they have drawn as a transition object. Review with them the night before, and keep other routines the same to help with comfort level.
In all situations, talk with your children about their feelings. Help them realize their feelings are normal and can be dealt with. Then show them how to cope positively with the suggestions above.
Written by Donna Purcell, PsyD, Licensed Clinical Psychologist. Reviewed and updated by Josie Castaldi, PhD, Licensed Clinical Psychologist, November 2007.
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