There’s a lot of scary things going on in our culture, and it’s very easy for children to get overwhelmed. Here are some strategies to raise healthy kinds in an anxious world:
1. Manage Your Own Worries
Think you can hide your fears from your child? You may need to think again. Children learn to read their parents’ facial expressions from a very young age. For instance, a toddler will glance back at his mother’s face before exploring a new area. If he detects calm from the parent, the toddler may feel reassured and explore the new environment; if he senses her fear, he may move closer to mom because he senses that there is danger nearby. All this can happen without any dialogue. Over time, a child may learn to fear going to new places because he has picked up on subtle parental messages of danger. Parents who learn to manage their own worries may help prevent anxiety in children.
2. Turn off the Evening News
The U.S. media outlets often use fear and sensationalism to attract more viewers. Kidnappings and extreme violence are reported frequently, while common acts of kindness and community support are rarely given weight. With repeated exposure, children, and even adults, may begin to believe that the world is more dangerous than it actually is. Even young children who appear to be occupied in play can tune in to environmental messages. Parents who choose to turn off the television and intentionally relay good news may help their children avoid the growing anxiety so common among today’s kids.
3. Encourage Kids to Face their Fears
For most parents, it is hard to watch their children struggle. It can be tempting to swoop in and rescue the child from a frightening challenge. There are situations where children could benefit from parents’ sensitive support and encouragement to confront feared tasks: first, give validity to the child’s feeling (fear or worry), and then encourage the child to move forward anyway. In this case, parents send the message that our fears do not have to debilitate us.