20 Ways to Cope With Your Child’s Anxiety

When your Child’s Anxiety Is Making You Anxious: 20 Ways to Make It Better

Parents and caregivers are often naturally inclined to reach out to their children when they are anxious, scared, or stressed. Though it often comes as a surprise, parents of anxious children may start to feel anxious, helpless, hopeless, angry, or desperate themselves in response. The next time your child is ridden with anxiety, repeat any of these coping phrases and practices. Your child will likely begin to mirror you.

1. “This too shall pass.” Like all emotions, anxiety will pass. Chances are that waiting ten to fifteen minutes will result in lessening anxiety levels. Take deep breathes, distract yourself with a pleasant activity, stretch, and repeat the phrase.

2. “Anxiety serves a purpose.” Oftentimes we pathologize anxiety in children. In fact, anxiety serves an important biological function to keep us safe. Teaching your child to differentiate between anxiety that will help and anxiety that will hinder her/him is a valuable life skill.

3. Breathe. Deep breathing actually reverses the body’s stress response. When we are anxious, we tend to take shallow breaths. Taking three conscious, deep breaths will alleviate much of our anxiety. Let Elmo be your guide:

4. “We are on the same team.” Remember, you and your child can work together to develop a calm minds and bodies.

5. “I am my child’s guide.” Remind yourself that your role is not to control the challenges your child will face but rather to be her/his guide through the experiences. This may mean you need to learn more coping strategies to manage anxiety, but you are the best one to lead the way

6. Observe. Instead of “doing something,” slow things down by simply observing what is happening like an outsider. Try to identify triggers of anxiety. By identifying triggers, you can help your child cope with them, thereby limiting your own sense of helplessness.

7. Stick to the routine. Anxious children thrive on predictability. You may not be able to do anything about the trigger, but you can reinforce the routine. Bedtime, family rituals, and morning routines center our children, better preparing them for the outside world.

8. Meditate. Take some time to be still and focus on your breath for a few moments.

9. “Help is available.”Hopelessness usually means you have exhausted your ability to deal with your child’s anxiety. Having another set of eyes on the situation may make all the difference in the world. Whether a professional counselor, a relative, or another trusted adult, turn to those in your child’s circle for help.

10. “My child’s anxiety is not a reflection of my parenting.” Stop questioning whether you should or could have done something differently with your child. Focus rather on what you can do as their guide through their challenges.

11. “What would make my child laugh right now?” Whether it’s a funny noise, a silly story, or singing the wrong words to a favorite song, laughter is the fastest way to make you both feel better.

12. “I’m going to take a break.” It’s okay to take five minutes of quiet time or put yourself in a place to reconnect with yourself when you are feeling angry. Not only are you modeling appropriate behavior, but you also have a chance to take a few breaths and remind yourself of a few of these phrases.

13. “I love you. I’m here for you.” Your children will experience stress that they cannot control. Reminding them that you love them and are here for them is reassuring, not just for them but for you as well.

14. “In this moment, right now, what can I do to improve the moment?” Some days it will be getting ice cream; others it will be going for a run or buying/picking flowers. Make a long list for yourself of ways to improve the moment that you can reference when you need it.

15. “S/he does not know how to deal with this.” Frustration over your children’s anxiety can sometimes result from forgetting that they are trying to learn how to navigate a world of unknowns. Regardless of whether their fear is rational, or of how many times you have been through this, ask yourself how you can be their guide.

16. “I am on a beach.” There is a reason why guided imagery is used during labor and delivery to reduce pain. It works! Imagine yourself in a soothing, happy place before you speak.

17. “My job is to help my child become a functioning adult.” When you put it into perspective, you must teach your child how to acknowledge, reduce, and wade through anxiety if she/he is to be a functioning adult.

18. “I have control over my reaction.” Ultimately, the only person you can control is you. Govern your feelings, control your reactions, and then help your child learn to do the same. You can teach your child the art of emotional self-regulation by modeling it.

19. “Progress is never linear.” Learning to cope with anxiety is not a linear process. Sometimes it can feel like you are moving in circles. It takes time and practice and repetition for you and your child.

20. “I’m doing the best I can.” In this moment, with the tools you have, you are doing the very best you can. Some days your reaction to your child’s anxiety may be cool, calm, collected, empathetic, and thoughtful—on other days, perhaps not as much. We are all a work in progress, and you are doing the best you can.

For more help and support, contact Tara at therapy@tarakreider.com.

Managing Holiday “Blues”

Although the holidays are supposed to be a time of happiness and good cheer, many people experience seasonal “blues” or ‘Holiday Depression’. The holiday season is a time full of parties and family gatherings, but for many people, it is also a time of self-evaluation, loneliness, reflection on past “failures” and anxiety about an uncertain future.

“Holiday Depression” can be caused by many factors including increased stress and fatigue due to unrealistic expectations, over-commercialization, busy schedules, and the inability to be with one’s family. The increased demands of shopping, parties, family reunions, and house guests also contribute to these feelings of tension. Even people who do not become depressed can develop other stress reactions during the holidays such as headaches, excessive drinking, over-eating and difficulty sleeping.

Although many become depressed during the holiday season, even more respond to the excessive stress and anxiety once the holidays have passed. This post-holiday let down after January 1 can be the result of emotional disappointments experienced during the preceding months as well as the physical reactions caused by excess fatigue and stress.

Below are several possible sources of holiday stress with some strategies to help individuals cope with holiday “blues”:

  • Keep holiday expectations manageable. Organize and prioritize your time so that you are not overwhelmed and be realistic about what you can accomplish. Say “no” when you need to say “no.”
  • Acknowledge all the feelings. Just because the holidays are supposed to be a happy time, it does not mean that you should suppress other feelings. Allow all your feelings to be present, even if you choose not to express them. Find a health outlet for your feelings.
  • Let go of the past. Try to accept that each year is different. Expecting that the holidays to be like the “good ‘ole days” may be getting in the way of you enjoying the present.
  • Do something for someone else. Volunteer time over the holidays (or any time of the year).
  • Try to find ways to enjoy the holidays without spending a lot of money such as driving/biking around and looking at decorations, baking, or even going sledding. Check your local newspaper for free events around the holidays.
  • Don’t be afraid to try something new. Start a new tradition and celebrate the holidays in a way that you have not done before, such as expressing appreciation for others or writing a list of things you’re grateful for. For more ideas, go here.
  • Spend time with people who are supportive and care about you. Set a date to meet a friend. Make new friends or contact someone you have lost touch with.
  • Find time for yourself. Read a book, take a nap, or go for a walk instead of trying to take care of everyone else all of the time. Incorporate some physical activity into your schedule, which will help you maintain a sense of wellbeing and also decrease some of your stress!

Make an face-to-face appointment with Tara.

Make an online appointment with Tara.

Article based on one produced by the National Mental Health Association

About Play Therapy

The Top 5 Questions About Play Therapy

I have met many parents who are interested in getting their child help with their emotions or behaviors, but often are confused about what play therapy is and if it’s right for their child.

I have seen from firsthand experience the effectiveness of play therapy, especially when used with other relational, evidence-based techniques.

Here are some answers to the five most common questions about play therapy.

  1. What is play therapy?

Play therapy is a therapeutic approach to counseling, specifically aimed at helping children with emotional, social, and behavioral problems. Play therapists use children’s natural means of communication–play—to foster a safe and accepting environment where children can heal and grow. Toys in a playroom are carefully selected to allow children opportunities for creativity and imagination, mastery of skills, nurturing, and real-life processing through play.

  1. What does a play therapy session look like?

When children come to play therapy, it is very much the same as when an adult gets counseling. When most people think of an adult getting counseling, they imagine someone sitting down, talking to a therapist. The therapist pays attention to patterns in the client’s life, helps reframe certain ideas, reflect feelings, and even teach the client therapeutic techniques to help manage symptoms. The client feels this is a safe place to express himself or herself, talk about intimate details of his or her life, and process events that have, or are currently, happening. For children, they might use words and other times they use play or art to communicate and express thoughts and emotions. Similar to working with adults, the play therapist will reflect children’s feelings and point out patterns, likes, and dislikes that they notice. They may also teach children techniques to help them identify feelings, cope with their anger, or socialize at school. And most importantly, the playroom is set up to be a safe place for children to express themselves and process various things in their lives. As in adult therapy, a safe and accepting therapeutic relationship is key to the client’s success.

  1. Who can be helped by play therapy?

Play therapy is intended to help children with a wide range of social, emotional, and behavioral problems. These include adjustment to trauma or major life changes, hyperactivity and attention disorders, anxiety, depression, behavior problems, and social skills. The techniques in therapy will vary, depending on the age of the child, so often there is no age limitation for those who can benefit from play therapy.

  1. How long will my child need to be in therapy?

The length of therapy varies for every child, and there are several factors to consider when determining how long a child might need theapy. These include willingness to participate in the therapeutic process, consistency with attendance, past and current environmental factors, support systems in place, and the nature and duration of the symptoms.

  1. What qualities should I look for in a child therapist?

  • Knowledgeable: Your therapist should be knowledgeable in child development as well as in the problems and concerns you present. Specialized training in working with children, such as a certification in play therapy, is also important. Children are a very special population and require a treatment approach geared towards their developmental level.
  • Loves Children: This sounds obvious, but it is too important not to include. A therapist who claims to work with children should love children! Trust me when I say that your child will know if their therapist is not enthusiastic about them or their play.
  • Parent Involvement: Your child’s therapist should show a willingness to communicate with you regularly. This communication can include feedback from the child’s treatment, parenting techniques, and suggestions for helping your child outside of the session. Parents should also feel open to asking a therapist questions and sharing regular updates on how things are going at home and at school.
  • Coordinates Care with Other Professionals:Children who attend school or daycare are likely exhibiting their behaviors in the classroom. In fact, many parents seek counseling because their children’s teachers have expressed concerns and want help as well. It may also be important for a therapist to communicate with your child’s pediatrician, especially if medication is involved. A willingness to collaborate with your child’s teachers, doctor, or other providers can further foster their success outside of the playroom.
  • Establishes Good Rapport:Just like any other relationship, you will connect with some therapists and not with others. Especially in a field where you are entrusting this professional with intimate details of yourself and your life, you want someone you trust and are comfortable with. Your child will feel the same in their sessions, so be sure they enjoy being with that individual.

Please visit the Association for Play Therapy website for more information about play therapy.

The 101 On How To Talk To Someone Experiencing Psychosis

Do you know someone struggling with psychosis?

I doubt anyone thinks they or someone they know will experience psychosis in their lifetime. After all, the lifetime prevalence of all psychotic disorders is only roughly 3.06%. Families and friends often have no idea how to help or what to do when their loved one shows the signs. When people ask for my advice, this is what I tell them: Continue reading

Looking Out For Your Friends

I loved/hated graduate school. While I loved my studies, I hated the work load at the same time. I felt really overwhelmed. I didn’t sleep well despite serious fatigue after long hours of studying. Sometimes I felt energized by the work, and sometimes I felt sad and discouraged and irritable under the stress.

My friends were my saviors! They insisted I come out for dinner, games, and conversation. They listened to me and made me laugh and made sure I didn’t take things too seriously. Today I read an article in The Guardian that reminded me that “friends are on the front line of mental health support.” Seb, the article’s author, shares that he was diagnosed with depression in his second year of undergraduate study. He says that talking with his friend helped him process his feelings and normalize his experience.

Continue reading