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How Parents and Teachers Can Help Anxious Kids

Anxiety hits both adults and children.

Depression and anxiety among children are increasing.

As a society, this is a huge problem that we need to tackle.

The first step is recognizing that the issue is real.

Anxiety is part of human nature. It’s part of our ‘fight’ or ‘flight’ response that kept us alive.

However, when a child is not able to control their anxiety as they grow up, it could become a chronic and crippling condition.

If a child is ‘scared’ to do something, and parents say that they don’t need to do that, it sends a message that they were right to be afraid of it.  We’re accidentally re-enforcing the fear as being legitimate.

We need to encourage our children to move out of their comfort zone. They need to experience the ‘fear’ and then realize that they’re actually okay.

It’s better for them to stretch themselves when they’re young, and learn that these fears don’t last forever.

Encourage children to do things that are slightly out of their comfort zone (meet a new friend, ride their bike at a new bike park, go to the store, etc).

When they learn to face their fears and see how great they feel afterward, we’re using positive reinforcement to help them stretch themselves and be less anxious in general.

anxious kids

Key Takeaways:

  • As much as 15-20% of kids could have problematic anxiety.
  • A severe anxiety disorder may be as crippling as some of our most severe illnesses.
  • Anxiety can be genetic.
  • Those who live with anxious family members are much more likely to be anxious themselves.
  • Parents need to help their children break the cycle of anxiety and learn how to be resilient.

The Let Grow Project helps children face their fears and try something new.

It’s a homework assignment students get that says, “Go home and do something new, on your own, without your parents.” We give a list of about 100 ideas — ride your bike, go to the store, make dinner, whatever. Basically we want kids to do something slightly out of their comfort zone, so they (and their parents) get used to exactly what you just said — facing some fears and seeing how truly great it feels afterward. It’s positive reinforcement instead of negative reinforcement – fighting the culture of avoidance.

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