Squashing the Worry Bug

Do you have a child that worries? Does the anxiety get in the way of having fun, participating in activities, with friendships? Does your child have the following traits?

  • DemonstrateS excessive distress with crying, physical symptoms, sadness, anger etc.
  • Easily agitated or angry in stressful situations accompanied by stomach aches or headaches.
  • Needs repetitive reassurance to ”what if” concerns

These are just a few symptoms of children who worry excessively. There are few ways to combat anxiety and, at the same time, give your child the confidence to manage it. Tamar Chansky, PhD, author of ”Freeing your Child from Anxiety” has identified 5 steps in creating this management plan.

Empathize with your child what you are feeling:

  • Acknowledge what is going on with her. Don’t tell her not to worry, but reflect her feelings by saying: ”this seems so hard, so unfair”, ”this is making you so upset”…
  • Relabel the problem ’ give it a name.
  • This allows the child to determine what thoughts are from her worry voice and what she really THINKS.
  • Give it a name like ”worry bug”, make a puppet to remind her, or even draw pictures of it.

Rewire and Resist

  • Help her find the truth and not let the powerful feelings get in the way
  • Teach her to say things like ”my parents would never let me be in danger — I am not listening to you worry bug!”

Get the body on board

  • Slow the body down by counting, deep breaths, thinking of something that makes her happy and calm.
  • Remind your child that anxiety always passes

Refocus on what you want to do

  • Ask your child what she would be doing if she was not worrying? Then get into the activity ’ or something like it — the brain will follow but not the worry bug!

Reinforce your child’s efforts at fighting her worries!

  • Reward any behavior that demonstrates any coping, effort at beating this worry bug!
  • Change the reward after a partial goal is met

You can use these steps with children and adults at all ages, just adapt to their age and maturity level. Chansky and others believe that it takes about 2-3 weeks for a new behavior to really be established, so practice and reward consistently! For more information regarding anxiety in adolescent girls and women visit the blog section of my website at www.mgelman.com

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