The condition we call ‘Anxiety’ has now reached epidemic proportions amongst adults and children.  The statistics are staggering.  Yet there is no blood test for this.  We cannot see it on a scan.  So, what exactly is it?  What anxiety really is, and why millions suffer from it, continues to be misunderstood and incorrectly handled by too many practitioners and parents, and I believe that it is because of this, that we have a raging epidemic of anxiety today.

First, it’s important to be aware that anxiety is a symptom not a disease or disorder.  So, if anxiety is a symptom, we need to know the answer to the question: What is the source of this symptom, because when we identify and treat the source of the anxiety, the anxiety will go away.

Child hiding in pillow fort

What is The Source of Anxiety?

I would describe anxious children as, children who do not feel comfortable in their own skin.  As my clients always say to me … Okay, Dr. Sandy so what is the source of this discomfort inside of my child? Why does my child feel this way?

My answer is: ‘Your child is anxious because he or she believes that, ‘I am Not Enough.’  It is pretty scary dealing with life when you don’t have a good sense of self-worth because you believe you are not enough’.  Every child I have ever seen that suffers with anxiety, is a child that has a core belief about themselves that, “I am Not Enough.’

And then Mom and Dad ask the 50-million-dollar question – ‘Dr. Sandy but why would my child believe that he or she is not good enough?  We love him so much.’   And the answer to this is: ‘You, unconsciously gave your child this message about himself or herself.  In your well-intended desire to help them do better, be smarter, try harder, do more … you unintentionally communicated in a way that sounded like you were saying, …Who you are – as you are – is not enough.

Then these children begin to doubt that they have what it takes to meet the expectations of those around them and so they become anxious and are afraid to try.  Their anxiety and fear of failure becomes stronger than their desire to succeed.  And so, if we go back and back and back, looking for the answer to the question, why is my child anxious, we find that the real source of a child’s anxiety lies in the dynamics of the parent-child relationship.

Mother and child

Parenting a Child with Anxiety

As a parent, we walk a fine line between making our child’s anxiety worse or relieving them of this awful feeling that gnaws away at them.  And if we don’t know how to parent an anxious child, we could unintentionally make it worse. This topic of how to parent an anxious child is such an immensely important one because tens of thousands of children are not able to become everything that they are actually capable of being, because their anxiety keeps them stuck and prevents them from reaching for their own kind of greatness.

Doctor writing in notebook

3 Parenting Don’ts

1. Never push your child to do something he/she is afraid to do or doesn’t want to do. When you push or nag or try to encourage them to do what they are afraid to do, you will be causing them to:

Release the stress hormone, cortisol, in their body and brain.

  • Go into fight, flight or freeze as a way of coping
  • Feel inadequate and worthless
  • And their anxiety level goes up

2. Never try to convince your child with logic that there is no real reason for him/her to be anxious. When you give them logical reasons not to feel anxious what happen is:

  • This negates their very real feelings
  • Makes them feel as though they are being ‘silly or stupid’ which lowers their self-esteem.
  • And actually, increases their anxiety level.

3. Don’t let yourself build stress and anxiety about your child’s anxiety. Your child feels when you are stressed and anxious and this increases his/her anxiety.

3 Parenting Do’s

1. Start by knowing one very important fact: Your child is anxious because he or she believes ‘I am not enough’ (not smart, strong, athletic, brave good …just not enough). More than anything else anxious children need to know that who they are is amazing – that they are ‘SO Enough’ just the way they are. To change this ‘I am Not Enough’ belief, make sure that you speak about your child’s strengths each time you see these strengths being displayed. (but not in a conversation about anxiety). This way you will slowly rewire their belief of, I’m Not Enough’ to I’m SO Enough.’

2. Anxious children (of all ages) need to know:

  • That you understand what they are feeling; there are times in your life you have felt this too.
  • Feeling anxious does not mean that they are weak.
  • There is a confident, resilient person inside of them waiting to be free.

3. Learn how to let go of your own stress and fears. This is hugely important because your stress is contagious. Become aware when your own stress and anxiety are affecting your child.

If you want to become skilled in freeing your child of anxiety, there is no better way to do this than to see my Online Program,  Healing Your Child’s Anxiety and Fear;  7 Ways to Help Your child Feel Safe and Love Life.  In this online program, I take you by the hand and show you step-by-step how to heal your child’s anxiety.  This program can change your child’s life for the better – as well as your life too!

To Medicate or Not to Medicate

Those who know me, know that I believe that medication is not a sustainable long-term solution.  You can read more about this in my book, Parents Take Charge: Healing Learning, Behavior and Mood Problems Without Medication.  Medication, on its own, is a band aid.  It does not identify and treat the real source of the anxiety.

I do totally understand that sometimes a parent may choose the band-aid rather than watch their child hurting.  And, if you do opt for medication, I truly respect your choice.  Please know, though, that the medication is helping manage the anxiety, it is not healing it.  Your child will be fully healed of anxiety when you understand, how and why, this symptom started in the first place. With this knowledge and information, you can begin to do what is necessary to heal the source of the anxiety and then, with the help of a practitioner, you can wean the child off medication, when the time is right.  In exactly the same way, if you have a child that is grappling with anxiety and is not on medication, knowing the source of the anxiety will help you understand exactly what it is you need to do to heal it.  In both cases, with or without medication, knowing how to parent a child who is anxious, is more important than I can say!

For more about how to heal your child’s anxiety see: 4 Parenting Mistakes that Create Anxious Kids