Do You Make Your Child’s Anxiety Worse?

Children with dyslexia often find that school causes them enormous amounts of anxiety.

Let’s face it……….There is a huge number of barriers put in their way from day one.

Once your child starts school the barriers seem to compound as the years progress and they attempt to achieve their secondary school certificate. To do this they must read large amounts of text, memorise facts, produce long written essays, complete assignments and sit timed written exams.

But….your child’s levels of anxiety can also compound……

Once your child gets on the ‘anxiety train’ it can gather momentum, increase speed, and it may even fall off the tracks and crash taking your child with it.


The Anxiety Train

As conscientious parents when our child becomes anxious, we become anxious.

No one likes to see their child struggling through life and experiencing pain, whether it be physical or emotional.

We naturally comfort our children when they are scared and worried to alleviate their high levels of anxiety…..and their pain.

………But new research is telling us that parents can fall into the ‘protection trap’ which can make things worse.

A new Arizona State University Study shows that parents whose children suffer from anxiety can influence and reinforce their child’s anxious behaviour without even realizing it.

For instance anxiety expert and clinical psychologist Lindsay Holly tells us…….

Anxious children often ask for reassurance far more than other children, yet reassurance in the face of anxiety and fear sometimes gives the message that there is something dangerous in the environment to worry about, thus promoting avoidance of every situation that is perceived to be scary, she said.

Another aspect of the ‘protection trap’ identified through Holly’s research involves parents who allow their kids to remove themselves from scary or uncomfortable situations.

Excuses may be made in order to avoid the scary thing or situation and that can further increase anxiety.

“The more a child avoids a situation that may be scary, the scarier it becomes because they don’t have a chance to overcome it.

They aren’t given the chance to develop the coping skills or strategies to deal with the situation appropriately,” she said.

Sometimes parents ‘take over’ when a child starts to show signs of anxiety or fear.

Parents may tell the child – what to do, how to behave and what to say during situations when the child is feeling highly anxious.

Or……..they might even do the thing on behalf of their child.

Holly says……”They do the scary thing for them. The children don’t overcome the situation and they keep feeling anxious”.

Children who may be fearful of avoiding situations such as going to a friends house for a play date because they are anxious about it, aren’t necessarily helped by parents who phone up and RSVP’s their apologies for the child.

“Kids who deal with the natural consequences of RSVPing on their own would experience some of the negative consequences, leading to decreased anxiety in the future since they had dealt with the situation themselves,” she added.

It is also important for parents to monitor how their own reaction to their child’s anxiety is affecting their kids.

We inadvertently teach our children how to react to stressful situations by reacting to it ourselves

We need to think about the best way to respond and give our child positive attention when they do something brave or face their fears in a stressful or scary situation.

It’s also important to minimize the positive attention we give to anxiety even though it’s hard for parents to see their kids in distress, Holly said.

“Even anxious children naturally face fears and situations that are frightening to them.

Parents can look out for this type of bravery, no matter how small, and reward their child.

Attention is often the most powerful type of reward so doing easy things like giving a high five, a smile, or a simple ‘I like how you faced your fears!’ can go a long way,” Holly said.

“Being supportive and helping kids face their fears is really the key,” she said.

If you would like some help and support to teach your child how to handle stressful situations more proactively, you can refer to The Ten Minute Tutor, specifically Tips For Life tutorials…….including…..

D-13 How to cope with feeling different

E-6 Strategies to help you remember

F-6 Getting over a bad day

G-6 Why you can’t give up ever

G-13 Asking your teachers for help

G-27 Understanding stress and anxiety

H-6 What is anxiety – Part One

H-13 Overcoming anxiety – Part Two

H-20 Overcoming anxiety – Part Three

I-27 Conquering exam stress

J-13 How to read out loud in public

k-27 University don’t rule it out

and many… many….. more

Supporting a child with dyslexia is a journey in itself. It is not only our child or student who is learning and growing more resilient; we too are on the same journey.

The Ten Minute Tutor has been created to support that journey.

To learn more Click Here

Wishing you and your child every success,

Kind regards

Liz Dunoon

The reference paper, “Variations in the Influence of Parental Socialization of Anxiety among Clinic Referred Children,” was published in the journal, “Child Psychiatry and Human Development,” by ASU graduate student Lindsay Holly, who is earning her doctoral degree in clinical psychology, and Armando A. Pina, ASU associate professor in child developmental psychology. Researchers analyzed self-report questionnaires and clinical interviews that were completed by 70 children aged 6 to 16 who were being treated for anxiety at a university-based program.

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