It is that time of year! We are all preparing for back to school, schedules, and routines. Change is coming and your child or teenager is not coping well. Maybe they are feeling afraid, nervous, and anxious. I am going to give you 5 tips to help you as you navigate the anxiety your children may be experiencing. Please know you aren’t alone and you can work through this!
1. Don’t Try To Understand It
You will never be able to understand their anxiety or what is causing it. It will come unexpectedly. It will be random. Your child may not always understand what caused it and won’t be able to find the words to explain it to you. Be okay with not understanding.
2. Acknowledge Their Feelings
They are scared. They may even be confused by what is happening on the inside. When they come to you, they will probably feel ashamed, so they need to know you will not demean what is happening on the inside of them. Your child or teenager will need to know you are a safe place to come to with their feelings. Saying things like, “You are not in trouble for having these feelings and thoughts,” or “Describe what is happening inside your body and mind right now.” Above all, by acknowledging what they are feeling, you are letting them know even if you don’t understand, what they are feeling is really happening.
3. Attitude of Gratitude
When someone is having an anxious moment or thought, it is hard for them to get out on their own. Help them to STOP, BREATHE, and practice GRATITUDE. By asking your kids to help you make a list or say out loud what they are thankful for will be powerful for them. It changes what their focus is on at that time. Having an attitude of gratitude is great for the brain, hypothalamus metabolism. and stress levels.
For instance, it doesn’t matter if their list includes tv, shoes, frappuccino, friends, or the birds singing! When they begin to change what their brain is fixed on, you will begin to see a change in them! Memorizing Philippians 4:6 together will also be a way to help them turn to gratitude when they may be alone and you can’t walk through this step with them: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
4. Change Daily Activities or Routines
Take a step back and look at what is happening on a daily basis for them. They will not do this for themselves. Look at how much sleep they are getting. What time do they get in the bed? How often are they on their phones, social media, or video games? Are they drinking water or too much soda? How many days of the week do they have activities going on? How much sugar are they consuming throughout the day?
Tweaking these small things will have a huge impact. Now, let’s be honest for just a second. They will not like these changes at first…or even you for that matter. That is okay! Remember God made you their parents and it’s up to you to train them up. If He wanted you to be their friend, He would have placed you in that role.
5. Pray For Them
Prayer is powerful! Prayer changes things! Even when you don’t know the words to say, simply saying, “Jesus we need you”, is powerful. You and your child cannot walk this road alone. God does not expect you to. He knew that you would need the help of your Good, Good Father. Teach your child they can pray on their behalf too…their prayers are just as powerful as yours!
Through prayer, He will open your eyes to others you can ask for help as you navigate these waters with your children. There is no shame in seeking help for you and them. Galatians 6:2 tells us we are to bear one another’s burdens. Ask God to help you to be slow to speak when your child or teenager comes to you with anxious thoughts and quick to listen to what they are saying and feeling.
In conclusion, by practicing these 5 things over time, you and your children will begin to experience a new way of coping, living, and eventually, thriving past anxiety!