Parenting a child with anxiety

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About Shaun

Shaun Groves writes about the ups and downs of fatherhood and how he manages to stay sane in spite of (or maybe because of?) being a dad. Shaun is a dad of four and travels the world singing and speaking on behalf of Compassion International. He is also his household’s reigning Candyland champion.

Mrs. Roosth was tall and gaunt, uncomfortably quiet, with small eyes and angry hands.

I leaned back too far in my chair and landed with a thump on the classroom floor. She wrapped her bony fingers around my arm, yanked me up to my feet and just about threw me into the nearest corner to stand for the rest of the day. A few hours. I was in the first grade.

My stomach hurt. My muscles spasmed in my back. My chest grew tight. I thought I might die. But I didn’t say a word.

That’s my earliest memory of serious anxiety. But not my last. Or worst.

I missed a Homecoming dance in high school because anxiety so debilitated me that I couldn’t stand and walk.

I was so heavily medicated on my wedding day that I slept through the first night of the honeymoon!

I turned down my first offer of a record deal because I fear traveling. And just the worrying about it doubled me over in pain and sent me to bed for the better part of a day.

But since eventually signing that record deal, I’ve traveled to around 100 cities every year for twelve years. As a musician and speaker I’ve stood on stage and done my thing in front of tens of thousands of people. Sometimes all at once. As a spokesperson for Compassion International, I’ve traveled to ten developing countries with questionable airplanes, eaten grub worms and guinea pig, and lunched with posh dignitaries and mobs of slum children.

No more debilitating anxiety. How’d that happen? And how can we as parents stave off the anxiety of our children?

My mother is as close to a perfect parent as there is. But even she made mistakes. Just two.

When I became anxious she made it worse by doing two things:

Telling Me To Stop It

I couldn’t stop being anxious any more than I could stop being a boy. It didn’t feel like a choice. Telling me to stop being anxious made me feel defective, abnormal, like I couldn’t do something everyone else could. Telling me to stop worrying gave me more things to worry about! Does my mom think I’m a weirdo? Will everyone else think I’m a weirdo? What’s wrong with me?

Telling Me What Would Happen If I Didn’t Stop

My mother is a worrier too. And when I worried to the point of dysfunction, she worried out loud. On my wedding day: What if you don’t get better…people are already at the church…we can’t move a wedding…you don’t want that do you? And of course I didn’t want that and I didn’t want my mother to worry either so I tried to reassure her, which is quite the opposite of relaxing.


Photo by Pink Sherbet Photography

Today I have four children and one of them is anxious. Here’s what I do when her anxiety prevents her from fully living:

Don’t Push

I don’t push her to play in the piano recital that has her in knots. Making her feel like a lot is riding on her getting over her anxiety will only make it worse.

Listen

I ask her what she’s feeling and listen. When she takes a breath I hand her a tissue and listen some more. The feelings are the effect. I want to listen until I hear the cause.

Interrupt

People with chronic debilitating anxiety are often ruminators. They are people whose thoughts get stuck in a groove like a needle on a record, going round and round playing the same anxious thoughts again and again until it’s all they can hear. So it’s important to interrupt my daughter once I think I understand her feelings and what’s causing them. I tell her what I think she’s said to me and ask her if I’m right. If she says I am but then tries to restate it all again – ruminating some more – I cut her off.

Imagine The Worst

This is counterintuitive but I ask her to imagine the worst thing that could happen at the piano recital. I’ll freak out and forget my music and everyone will stare at me and I’ll be embarrassed.

Prevention

I ask her if there’s anything she could do to prevent this from happening. In the case of the piano recital, does she have to play the music from memory or would the teacher let her have sheet music nearby just in case?

Plan

We figure out together what we’ll both do if the worst actually happens. I promise I won’t laugh or be embarrassed or love her any less or think she’s any less talented. Recitals are bad measures of talent. And talent isn’t why I or anyone else in that concert hall loves her.

But what will she do is the worst happens? She may decide that she’ll take the sheet music with her and use it if she forgets the notes. She may come up with a self-depreicating joke she can make to ease the tension and get the audience on her side (I still do this all the time). If she can’t come up with a plan, thenI help out but I really want this to be her idea, because I want her to be able to do this for herself when I’m not around.

Celebrate Success

When the piano recital ended without disaster we talked about how brave she was, how proud I was of her for facing her fears, and we had dessert. We celebrated the success. For me, successes, even the smallest ones, give me confidence that the worst rarely – if ever – happens.

Parenting myself this way over many years has destroyed anxiety. There are still things I’m afraid of, worried about – especially when bills are due. That’s normal. But I’m no longer disabled, half-living because of severe anxiety.

The next time your child is too afraid to live fully, please don’t push. Instead, help them understand their fears, make a plan and move forward. Who knows what kind of life is waiting on the other side of their anxiety? Help them get there.

Do you struggle with anxiety? What has helped you break free?

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Comments

  1. I had terrible anxiety related to watching movies as a young child. I grew out of it by high school but for most of elementary I would spend most of the movie in the bathroom thinking I needed to throw up or sit out in the hallway until the movie was over. I’m glad my parents/teachers allowed the escape, I would have been a basket case if I’d had to stay and watch.

  2. Aggghhhh! Shauunnn! When few people write things that affect me anymore – you always do!

    I think that means you’re winning. Thank you!
    Jessica´s latest post: Random Things I Want You To Know.

  3. Thank you so much for writing this. My daughter is dyslexic and starting high school. Her anxiety is valid, but it’s also consuming. I will read this to her. We have worked out some things, but she gets stuck often. I appreciate your words. Thanks.
    Mom Off Meth´s latest post: You Said What?

  4. oh, goodness — reading this brought back memories…I would give myself stomachaches each year the night before school started (and many other times, too). Your advice was right on — the thing that generally worked for me was to imagine the worst case scenario and realize that even that wouldn’t be so bad.

  5. I have a son who fixates on things and can be overwhelmed by panic attacks and anxiety from time to time. I’ve also suffered from them for a large part of my adult life but I’ve always dealt with mine by myself. As a mom, this is helpful, because often I want to fix it for him and may end up doing more damage than good.
    Alia Joy´s latest post: She Prays

    • But just knowing you have dealt with the same problem and survived may help too. My daughter seemed shocked to know how anxious I used to be. And I hope she felt a little less alone and weird too.
      Shaun Groves´s latest post: Parenting A Child With Anxiety

      • I have anxiety stemming from 20 years ago and I had to realize that my first sons anxiety was because of how I was. Makes me sad that he seems unsure of himself embarrassed etc.

      • Hi Shaun. Really enjoyed reading this. I have had anxiety for most of my life. I worry about my 4 yr old as she does get a bit anxious. I feel very guilty that she will suffer because of something I passed down to her. Did you feel this way when you realised your daughter had some anxiety?

        Thanks for your time.

    • my 15 yr. old son has anxiety. I don’t know how to help him, i want to learn, i’m so scared of losing him. He doesn’t deserve this, I love him…..

  6. Words cannot express how thankful I am for this post. My almost seven year old daughter has been dealing with anxiety for the past four and a half months and it has been such an exhausting, overwhelming, and frustrating time for me as a mama. It has been hard to know what to do to help her (besides prayer), especially because I have never really struggled with anxiety myself. Thank you for giving me some practical tips to encourage her with. I appreciate it so much!
    andimae´s latest post: Eliza Grace

  7. Shaun, my girls are both too young still for me to know if they are anxiety prone, but if they are, know that your writing today will have made a massive difference in their lives I too would have been a “just stop” kind of parent. Now I’m going to be a helper. Thank you!
    The Accidental Housewife´s latest post: Planted

    • I think this is so cool. So, so cool.

    • I’m a single mom of 4 boys. My oldest son has been having issues at school. He doesn’t disrupt and he’s not a bad child, but he does everything BUT what he’s supposed to do. He won’t listen to what you’re saying cause he’s too busy trying to find something to answer back. He’s fidgity. He’s constantly moving, but he’s not hyperactive. His teacher and I suspect that he has anxiety issues. His school is pushing for medication, but reading this has been an eye opener. ENOUGH with the medication. My son is a 9 year old boy. He’s gonna act like a 9 year old, but saying STOP is not helping. Taking away his privileges, is not helping. Yelling, is not helping. I am hoping that these questions will help. He’s such a tender soul, an old soul, and it’s killing me inside that he’s struggling so much. I pray that this works….for both of us.

  8. I read a magazine article a few months ago about how anxious children are becoming because of all the expectations being placed on them. Be perfect at home, in school, at extracurricular activities, etc. While my kids are too young for me to assess their anxiety level, I appreciate your confirmation to not push, to listen and to celebrate the wins, big and small.

    And you’re right, the “worst” rarely happens. Thank you for such a thoughtful post.
    Nicole Robinson@TheBookWormMama´s latest post: WORMLY WEDNESDAY: Tooth Fairy Day and other August “Holidays”

  9. I found my head nodding in agreement about all the things to do to calm an anxious child. I have a son who is continually anxious and he comes by it naturally (as I am too at times) . I find to if I lead by example he is more likely to at least try. For instances I hate roller coasters, but I have at least tried them and I wanted my son to do the same, so I told him at Disney I would brave a roller coaster if he would, and left it at that. Well he took me up on the offer and had me try Mount Everest! Never in my life have I wanted so badly to go back on my word, but I did it I got on the ride and so he did he. End result HE LOVES ROLLER COASTERS me I still hate them!
    Victoria@Snailpacetransformations´s latest post: Less Words Wednesday: Grow Where You Are Planted

    • That’s hilarious! I’ve gotten myself into similar corners by pretending to be braver than I am to inspire my kids. But, hey, you survived!

      That’s really good advice, Victoria. In some stuff I’ve read over the years it seems that often (not always) anxious kids have anxious parents. Does our anxiety teach it to our kids? I don’t know. But we’re certainly setting an example.
      Shaun Groves´s latest post: Parenting A Child With Anxiety

      • Both my husband and I grew up as very anxious children and while we both have grown immensely, still suffer from it on occasion. Our oldest son (4) shows many of the same patterns that we experienced growing up. This was such a timely post. I have been going back and forth about how to handle “tough” situations with him, especially the situations that brought anxiety to me (like separation from parents), because I can so closely relate to his feelings that I tend to not want to push him to “just let us leave” because I know how horrible I felt as a child when my parents did that. I LOVE your suggestions and will work on them although I still feel like he is a little young to verbalize “worst case scenarios” but we will work on it. Luckily, when I got older, my dad (who has anxiety also) got counseling for his anxiety and learned a lot of strategies, such as the ones you mention, and gently helped me through many tough times. Thanks again so much for this post!!

      • Shaun,
        My 9 yr old daughter has had anxiety over the last few years but is having a really hard time lately with things she’s learning at school about war, scary stories from friends, things like aliens and UFO’s, abductions and violence against children, things she sees or hears on the news no matter how much I try to shield her. It’s all consuming and it affects her eating, her sleeping and concentration. Its the worst by far at bedtime and I sleep with her to try and help along with other relaxation techniques but she says she can’t get things out of her head. We tried a therapist once, and she never wanted to go back. It made her uncomfortable and caused anxiety at the thought of going to see anyone else. We try to reassure her that she’s safe and try to shield her from all of the bad and scary things she sees and hears but it’s taking a toll on her. I had a lot of the same sort of anxiety when I was young but never learned how to deal with it myself. The worst case scenario idea here would obviously not work but I don’t know what else to do and it’s heartbreaking to watch her go through this. I would appreciate any help at all.

  10. Shaun, just know there is a 9 year girl and her parents who so needed every word of this. Thank you doesn’t seem like a big enough word, but it’s all I’ve got. Thank you for your willingness to share these words, your story. Thank you.

  11. I have definitely struggled with anxiety and wonder if my daughter will too. Imagining the worst case scenario and realizing that even if it does happen it really won’t be the end of the world has been one of the most helpful things. That, and interrupting my thought pattern and replacing it with more realistic thoughts. Thanks for sharing.
    Steph´s latest post: Ministry, Google Documents and Random Sidebars

  12. I have struggled with anxiety over the years and I wonder if my daughter will struggle with it too. Imagining the worst possible scenario and realizing it wouldn’t be the end of the world has been very helpful. That, and interrupting my thought pattern and replacing it with more truthful thoughts has really worked wonders at various times.
    Steph´s latest post: Ministry, Google Documents and Random Sidebars

  13. This is such an awesome post. These are great ideas for any parent to use with a child who’s having an anxious moment. Thanks for sharing your story!
    Audrey @ Mom Drop Box´s latest post: White Wedding Expectations

  14. I have struggled with anxiety and wonder if my daughter will too. Thinking about the worst that could happen and realizing it wouldn’t be the end of the world has been very helpful. That, and interrupting my negative thought pattern and replacing it with more truthful thoughts. Thanks for sharing – very helpful post.
    Steph´s latest post: Ministry, Google Documents and Random Sidebars

  15. Thanks for such a thoughtful and insightful article. My husband suffered from anxiety as well – sounds a bit like you (he’d get physically sick). Now he’s learned to deal with it and regularly speaks in front of large audiences. (He’s a transformed man!) Our kids are too little to yet tell (baby and 2yo), but this is something I think about since my husband and his dad both struggled. Appreciate your advice for helping children deal and will be tucking this away for later reference if needed. Thanks so much.
    Adriel Booker´s latest post: these two

  16. Thanks for such a thoughtful and insightful article Shaun. My husband suffered from anxiety as well – sounds a bit like you (he’d get physically sick). Now he’s learned to deal with it and regularly speaks in front of large audiences. (He’s a transformed man!) Our kids are too little to yet tell (baby and 2yo), but this is something I think about since my husband and his dad both struggled. Appreciate your advice for helping children deal and will be tucking this away for later reference if needed. Thanks so much.
    Adriel Booker´s latest post: these two

  17. What great advice on an important topic. Our son demonstrates a lot of these qualities and OCD, for sure. Really value your firsthand insights. Thanks, Shaun.
    Kerry @ Made For Real´s latest post: On social graces…

  18. Really appreciate your story and your advice. Our littles are too young to know if this is an issue yet, but I’ll be tucking this one away for future reference if needed. My husband had similar anxiety issues as you (getting physically sick when he had to speak in public) and now he loves preaching and teaching and does so all the time with our work. (He’s a new man!:) Since his dad also has anxiety it’s on my radar to watch for in our boys. I’m eager to have my hubs read this article and get his thoughts on your tips as well. Thanks for your insight and wisdom Shaun.
    Adriel Booker´s latest post: these two

  19. Fantastic post Shaun! Just last weekend my soon-to-be preschooler told me about how nervous she is to start preschool in the fall. She was visibly shaken about it and I had to hold back tears as I saw a lot of myself in her that night. I’ve battled anxiety during my childhood years, and depression as a young adult, so I understood how she felt. All I knew to do was comfort her + listen. The last thing I wanted to do what push her feelings aside and make her think something was wrong with her because I want her to feel comfortable coming to me again in the future. This was a very timely post and I’m sure I’ll be reading it over and over again in the coming weeks. Thank you so much!
    Nicole´s latest post: on less, goals + a mid-year progress update

  20. Wow. This reminded me of all the pre-standardized testing tummy aches I got in school. It also shed some light on the behaviors my almost 5 y/o exhibits. Thanks for these suggestions, especially the one about not telling him to stop. I tend to focus on my anxiety over his behavior and I forget it’s my job to help him deal with & work through his own anxious thoughts. He and I are very similar!

  21. This rings so true, Shaun. I have a ruminator. Thanks so much for sharing this.
    Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy´s latest post: The 5 Rules That Shape Every Post I Write

  22. This is wonderful! As someone who has struggled with anxiety that began in severe panic attacks 7 years ago and now, by God’s grace, rarely affects my life, this resonated with me on so many levels. I also use the “imagine the worst” strategy. Often, I realize the things I am ruminating on, if they did come to pass, are NOT in fact the “end of the world” I was imagining : ) My son is only 2, but what a blessing to have some more strategies for helping him! Thanks for sharing!

  23. I, too, have suffered from anxiety off and on during my life, and my mother had the same reactions as yours did. One of my sons suffers from it as well, and I’m much more sympathetic to his compulsive tendencies and ruminations. Thanks for the reminder!
    Tonya´s latest post: Restless legs

  24. Shaun, this too hit many memories for me personally and all of my children to various levels. For them, we often talk about worst case scenarios, which gets them laughing a bit. One of my sons sometimes would rage when frustrated, and I think this technique would help anxiety. We did this when he was between 6 and 11 years old–I would get him to blow up a balloon. At first he couldn’t do it but with encouragment he would. It forces deep breathing and helps calm them! Then we would burst the balloon (only if that doesn’t scare them) and let all the bad feelings out! Helped him to learn deep breathing techniques. For me, the epiphany I had was when I realized anxiety was not trusting God. That has helped me immensely (only helpful when you have almost mastered the anxiety). At night I would visualize putting each anxiety on my pillow beside me and leave them with him. If I took it back, I would visualize again and again. Helped me get to sleep.

  25. I was an anxious child (and mom) and I have an anxious child. Thank you so much for this.
    karen´s latest post: The success lie (on family, failure and faith)

  26. God and Prayer. I have struggled with anxiety, but I know a God who’s bigger. A God who says not to be anxious about anything but to bring everything before Him in prayer and His peace will guard our hearts and minds (Phil. 4: 6-7)

    So, when my child fears, I pray. I am not big enough, nor do I have all the answers. God does.

    There will always be something to fear. God is our only hope, our refuge!
    Paula´s latest post: Happy 100th Birthday, Julia Child!

  27. It might be “that time of the month” but I read this post with tears in my eyes because it describes our not quite 6 year old son perfectly. We’ve seen his struggle with anxiety (personally I think it’s at least in part hereditary – not so much nurture as nature) and are often at a loss for what would help.

    I remember being shy as a child, but not overly anxious. My husband has lived through depression and anxiety for much of his life and does take medication for it – though more for the anxiety than the depression.

    What hurts the most as I watch our son, is that I find it so hard to figure out what he’s feeling anxious about because it sometimes seems “outside the norm”. He’s clearly comfortable going off to camp with a bunch of strange kids, starting school was no big thing and even a gymnastics show was pure fun. What does seem to bring on the anxiety are things like friends playing with his toys differently than he does, someone breaking the rules, and the lack of a routine.

    We’ve had him evaluated for OCD type behaviours, but despite his anxiety over the lack of a routine (only in seemingly random scenarios too), specialists found nothing.

    Thanks for sharing your experience and tips! Given his personality, I know he’d benefit from being interrupted and walking through the worst case scenario/what’s the plan suggestions. Much appreciated!!!
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  28. We are another family with the same issues. I grew up anxious and now my daughter. And we are both “oldests”. I wonder if birth order has anything to do with it?
    What I’m learning is that the older my daughter gets, the easier the anxiety becomes. Not that she’s less anxious – but she is better at self soothing or processing with me at 12 than the horrible freak out sessions she had at 6.
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  29. Is anxiety a musician thing? Because I’ve watched my gifted musician son struggle in some of the same ways. And, as a mother, I’ve made the same mistakes. I worry that his anxiety will prevent him from using the gifts God gave him.

    Thank you for sharing your story and for breaking down these helpful steps here. I know how powerful anxiety can be. But grace is more powerful.
    Nancy Franson´s latest post: On Pilgrimage: Labyrinth

  30. I have dealt with anxiety a lot in my life. Honestly, when I look back and see how the anxiety could be remedied, the answer is God. I’ve lost my focus. The creator of the universe is my God, what do I need to fear?
    When my child is afraid, we go to God. I don’t always have an answer, but He does.
    God says not to be anxious about anything, but to bring it before Him in prayer, and he will guard our hearts and minds with peace. -Phillippians 4:6-7
    God is our only hope.
    Paula´s latest post: Happy 100th Birthday, Julia Child!

    • I share your faith, Paula. But for me, telling myself “God is control” and doesn’t want me to be anxious didn’t do the trick. Was it helpful? Incredibly. But “taking every thought captive” (as the apostle Paul wrote) kicked anxiety’s tail in the end.

      That’s what this method is: capturing my thoughts, keeping myself from ruminating on destructive ones, replacing those thoughts with more helpful and positive ones.
      Shaun Groves´s latest post: Parenting A Child With Anxiety

  31. I read this post and it hit home in so many ways. I’ve been to doctors and specialist over the years from time to time, trying to figure out the cause of my health problems. Every time it comes back to stress, anxiety.

    I can’t count the number of well-meaning people over the years who have told me some version of “Just stop.” How do I explain that it’s not a matter of just deciding to stop? How does one just switch of that part of their brain that won’t let go of it? God really has brought me a long way, but I still have quite a ways to go.

    I pray that my four children never experience anxiety like I have. But if they do, thanks for the reminder not to tell them to “Just stop”.
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  32. Shaun,

    First I want to say that I wish I could print this out and hand it to every parent. Such a great approach to parenting in general.

    Second, we have a kiddo with sensory issues who has constant anxiety and sounds just like your article. On top of that, he is the first born, so he doesn’t get to follow in the footsteps of a sibling and see that they survived so he might, too.

    One thing that has really worked for him, besides the usual sensory therapy things is to write a “social story” when an event is coming up that he is really worried about. Basically, it’s a little book that he writes where he describes a situation and writes about what could happen, his feelings, and what to expect and what will happen when it is over. I usually have him illustrate it, too. Then, as the thought of the upcoming event looms over him, he goes to the book and reads through it to calm his nerves. There are some good posts on the internet about social stories for kids if anyone is interested.

    That, and a lot of prayer, asking God to help him through it. He has a lot of talks with God. (me, too!)

    Thanks for such an insightful article and your willingness to share your struggles with us!
    Polly´s latest post: For those Scary Times

  33. GREAT post and very helpful too!
    Bree´s latest post: The Big Easy, Easy Jambalaya

  34. This was such a good post. I parent a child who is prone to anxiety and these are great reminders. What strikes me is how differently I need to parent this child versus my others. I recently watched a panel of child development specialists and a woman from Harvard mentioned that very comfortable kids need to be pushed (my oldest), but kids who struggle need you to back off and focus on nurturing. I find this so true in my family. We’re constantly seeking ways to help him feel safe and comfortable because that’s when his beautiful self shines.
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  35. Shaun, thanks. Let me try that again…THANK YOU. Wow. I really needed to read this and I didn’t even know that I did. I love you brother. You continue to be a blessing in my life. Wow, just…wow.

  36. Hmmmmm: Naughty, non-compliant, a nuisance, outright bad….all labels that for years were spewed at me, that I believed, when it was anxiety without a compassionate adult in the vicinity. Thanks for the remedy: “Parenting myself this way, destroyed my anxiety…”
    I’m going to try that too.

  37. My youngest is super sensitive and struggles with some anxiety. Even when reading a “nice” book (Little House on the Prairie) there are parts she just can’t handle. She covers her eyes and says it is stressing it her out and we need to skip that part. In a movie once there was a part about this “stinky cheese” that a bully wanted another child to eat. She freaked! Seriously. It is hard for us, the rest of her family, to really understand, but we need to not laugh at her or force her into things. Her emotions are so strong and overwhelming at these moments. I so appreciate hearing this from someone who has been there.

  38. avatar
    Jabber Jaws says:

    I have serious anxiety at times and it manifests itself as major control issues. For example, I cannot STAND to have to move through anything dark (think amuesment park rides, walking at night in the dark etc) so I learned to keep a tiny flashlight on my keys or in my pocket. I really try and plan ahead for when I think my crazy might hit.
    Also, i have a child who seems to have anxiety issues too. For both of us, we have a “code” word that we use with those we are closer too. The code word allows us to convey what we are feeling without having to go to freak out mode in front of others. Often times, we feel better if someone is just aware and is just helpful to us.

  39. This post meant so much to me. Anxiety seems to run in my whole family. I often feel guilty that it has trickled down to my children. The funny thing is that all three of them deal with their anxiety in different ways, which makes parenting difficult at times. My oldest gets jittery, things like shaking his foot or bouncing his knee and becomes short with others. My middle child becomes very obsessive and feels like I don’t understand even though I have listened to her repeat how she is feeling over and over. Lastly my youngest just shuts down and doesn’t want to talk about it.
    To help them deal with their stress I mostly just give them time and space without pressure from me. But at the same time make sure they know I am always here to listen, understand, and love them no matter how they are feeling.

  40. This is helpful info. I am much like this, as a kid I was told it was “shyness” and I needed to just push through it. I guess that worked for me, but I would’ve appreciated a more gentle approach (and still would, as I still struggle with things from time to time). Now I see this from time to time in my own kids, they are not shy like I was but they occasionally “get stuck,” and these are very helpful and insightful thoughts, I appreciate you sharing and giving us some good stuff to think about so we can handle this better :)

  41. This is helpful info. I am much like this, as a kid I was told it was “shyness” and I needed to just push through it. I guess that worked for me, but I would’ve appreciated a more gentle approach (and still would, as I still struggle with some things). Now I see this from time to time in my own kids, they are not shy like I was but they occasionally “get stuck,” and these are very helpful and insightful thoughts, I appreciate you sharing and giving us some good stuff to think about so we can handle this better :)

  42. This post is right on. Severe anxiety runs in my family and I started to panic when our son started showing signs of severe anxiety at the beginning of 2nd grade. We began to see a counselor and were taught how to support him through his anxiety by doing all of these things. Boy did it work! Sure, he still struggles with his anxiety from time-to-time, but rarely does it get to the debilitating, we-can’t-leave-the-house point anymore. Thanks for a great post!

  43. I shared this over at your blog, but I copied it to here….

    Wow. What a memory that breaks my heart just thinking about it. My oldest child struggles deeply with anxiety, we have managed it so far with the help of a child psychologist (for us, not for him-so far) and without medication. But it is not easy and I don’t have answers because my boy is 8 and we are still very much in it daily. I know that he is better when the mood in the home is even, when we validate his anxieties rather then tell him to “get over it” or “”just quit it”. We have to do a lot of talking–good thing I’m a chatty person! but really we have to talk through every anxiety, discuss how he feels, worst case scenarios, etc. we pray a lot and he reads his bible daily, we flagged every scripture on fear and anxiety so he caring them quickly.

    On his worst days, he exhibits OCD behaviors to cope, on his best days he is smooth and even as can be. I know what things I do that triggers it in him and so I have to constantly guard myself against contributing to his anxiety. It’s not easy for any of us, and it is hard to deal with some days when his fears get the better of him. We pray, and we watch God move.

    It’s so encouraging to see how you’ve overcome this, Shaun. My boy has such a heart for the Lord and the Holy Spirit speaks to him in such awesome and humbling ways, I can’t wait to see what God will do with this little guy he’s blessed us with–it’s going to be amazing.

    Ps: sorry for the novel, you touched a soft spot in my life today and it just came seeping out. Thanks for this honest post.
    kris´s latest post: Because He Delights In You~ {Link-up}

  44. I shared this over at your blog, but I copied it to here…Wow. What a memory that breaks my heart just thinking about it. My oldest child struggles deeply with anxiety, we have managed it so far with the help of a child psychologist (for us, not for him-so far) and without medication. But it is not easy and I don’t have answers because my boy is 8 and we are still very much in it daily. I know that he is better when the mood in the home is even, when we validate his anxieties rather then tell him to “get over it” or “”just quit it”. We have to do a lot of talking–good thing I’m a chatty person! but really we have to talk through every anxiety, discuss how he feels, worst case scenarios, etc. we pray a lot and he reads his bible daily, we flagged every scripture on fear and anxiety so he caring them quickly.

    On his worst days, he exhibits OCD behaviors to cope, on his best days he is smooth and even as can be. I know what things I do that triggers it in him and so I have to constantly guard myself against contributing to his anxiety. It’s not easy for any of us, and it is hard to deal with some days when his fears get the better of him. We pray, and we watch God move.

    It’s so encouraging to see how you’ve overcome this, Shaun. My boy has such a heart for the Lord and the Holy Spirit speaks to him in such awesome and humbling ways, I can’t wait to see what God will do with this little guy he’s blessed us with–it’s going to be amazing.

    Ps: sorry for the novel, you touched a soft spot in my life today and it just came seeping out. Thanks for this honest post.
    kris´s latest post: Because He Delights In You~ {Link-up}

  45. This is such perfect timing for me! I have a very anxious 4 year old who has literally twisted out half her hair over the summer. She’s also introverted so it is next to impossible to get her to verbalize what she’s anxious about. I think I have it narrowed down to 2 things: first, we left her and sister at the Grandparents for a week while we took the youth group to camp, and second, she’s signed up to go to preschool every afternoon this year. She wants to go to the 3 day morning class. Since Kindergarten is ALL day every day, we thought the every afternoon was better prep for an anxious kid, but now I’m confused about what is best!

    Sounds like you are saying that maybe we should do what seems manageable for her now and not worry about the next step yet?
    Jen D´s latest post: Tag Blanket- Baby Girl Pink by jensgifts

    • avatar
      Chrissy says:

      As the mama of three children with varying levels of anxiety…yes, I think you are right in your thought to do what makes her feel secure at this point. You really never know how she will be for Kindergarten, it might be fine, but even if it isn’t…you can’t really prep her for it by freaking her out today. It just gets them frantic. My almost-five year old is doing pre-k next year instead of Kindergarten, three days a week because more than that is more than he can do and stay even. Just our reality. We will reasses in 2014 for the 2014-2015 school year.

  46. My daughter has anxiety about one issue in particular – needles. It’s a debilitating fear that we have not yet been able to overcome, or successfully deal with when necessary. I appreciate your thoughts on how to help a child through circumstances that induce anxiety, but I’m not sure they would apply in this situation. Do you have any suggestions, given that needles are sometimes unavoidable.

    • avatar
      Michele W says:

      Not sure if you mean only medical needles or all needles but if it is only medical, perhaps trying things like beading/sewing/needle point might be a fun way to go around the problem. I had a light version of this growing up and once I had pricked myself a few times while crafting and having fun, suddenly the medical needles were no longer scary as my mind was focused on creating something and I was in control of the situation.

  47. My oldest is this way. I was also as a child but not as bad. We are having a lot of new changes (new baby, move, daddy working in another state until we move after the baby, 2nd grade) this year and she complains of stomach aches. She has even tried to give me her piggy bank because she thinks we are poor, just from me saying “we don’t have money for that” about some silly infomercial. We are very careful about what she hears. I will confess I have said stop it at times, but for the most part we talk about it and I try reassure her that what she is worried about mommy and daddy will take care of. We do lost of kisses, hugs and bible verses to reassure her that we will be ok.
    Thanks for the article it was needed.
    Sherley LJ´s latest post: Plans

  48. avatar
    Melissa Boals says:

    Hi Shaun,
    thank you so much for your post.. it is greatly appreciated. I am 37 years old and have suffered terrible anxiety and panic attacks since the age of 17- I find my anxiety goies in cycles and this last year or so has been quite difficult. My anxiety usually is fuleed by thoughts that something bad will happen to me, I will die, havw a heart attack or srtroke etc. I have a 3 year old som and constanlty worry that I will die and he will not know me. I know that there were episodes in my very early years thatindicvated i had anxiety as a child and I see some symptoms in my son. This article helped me with how to best help him.
    I also have a terrible fear of flying and basically do not fly on my own at this point. My son and i are supposed ot meet family up in Maine in early september at our childhood summer home. I desperately want to go but am petrified to make the journey alone with just my son. I am debation cancelling but it breaks my heart that the anxiety will control me that way. Can advice on what to do?
    Thank you.

    • Melissa:
      What you wrote could be me. I also fixate on heart attack/health problems and dying. I have a 3 year old and a 5 1/2 month old. I want to go up to Seattle to visit family but I have become increasingly petrified of flying as I have gotten older and now make excuses to avoid flying. I want to one day take my kids to fun places around the world but worry that my fear of flying will make this not happen.

      I don’t want to live a half-life because of anxiety and look back at 90 and say, “Wow, so I lived 90 years after all, but I didn’t do anything fun because I was afraid to fly.” It’s easy for me to say, “Don’t cancel your trip!!! Just go for it!!” because I’m not the one getting on the plane. But I’m saying it anyway!!! You should go. =)

      • P.S. my friend is a flight attendant and is on several flights a week – so I try to think that if she can do 10-15 flights in one week, I can do 2 flights a year. I haven’t flown recently but am trying to get up the nerve.

  49. avatar
    Julie Dahlseid says:

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart

  50. My 5yo deals with anxiety and it is so hard for me to watch him struggle because I’m completely opposite and just do.not.understand. And I so badly want to be able to fix it somehow so he can enjoy life a little easier. (Although I realize “fixing it” is not my role.)

    I do my very best to not force things, to give him space to think, to help him make a plan, to listen. He seems to really struggle with articulating his feelings so I get a lot of “I don’t know!” or “I just don’t want to!”. I’m willing to help him find the words but since it is such unfamiliar territory to me I feel I’m bumbling around, missing the mark and often frustrating him as I try to understand him better.

    I really feel like I’m failing in this area. :(

  51. I have struggled with anxiety most of my life and I am now raising an anxious child. I have learned to be very careful with my own anxieties around him, and about him, so I don’t spark more inside him. You give some good tips!
    Sarah´s latest post: Growth

  52. Ulcer at 7.
    Cutting by 16.
    Full-blown anxiety attacks by 19.
    Diagnosis of agoraphobia at 20.

    Sounds crazy — but gratitude changed things for me. It is impossible to simultaneously feel fear — and give thanks. Thanks changed my focus from what I feared — to Who my Father is.

    I’m still in deep process. And doesn’t God have a crazy sense of humor — Who He calls to what.

    • Ann…I love your story and the blessing your life has spoken to others. Thanks for sharing so authentically and transparently. I often recommend your blog and book to others.
      Jesus is All

    • Absolutely, Ann.
      This post could have been a series! ; )

      There is so much more to my own healing than this simple step-by-step I’ve written here. Most certainly prayer has been at the center of it. What is prayer if not a capturing and redirecting of our thoughts. I’ve often joked (and been serious) that without decades of intestinal distress and panic and fear I may have never learned dependence, gratitude and prayer. And it is dependence, gratitude and prayer – along with some very practical steps I’ve outlined here – that God used to heal me…is using to heal me.

      Thanks, as always, for sharing yourself with us, Ann.
      Shaun Groves´s latest post: Parenting A Child With Anxiety

      • Ditto on the “taking thoughts captive”. After having a nervous breakdown in a kids consignment store, bedridden for 2 weeks, and on medication…Phil. 4:8 became my mantra. I was in a constant state of analyzing my thoughts and asking, “is this true?”. So when my head hurt and the first thing I thought was, “well, I have a brain tumor and I’m dying.”, I had to admit that thought wasn’t true. I also had a dear friend give the same advice you gave about thinking of the worst case scenario. For me, that was dying and leaving my family. She reminded me that if I did die, my husband and children would be ok because God’s grace would sustain them. My cooking, cleaning, organizing, and worrying won’t sustain them… The One who created them, knows them, and loves them perfectly will saturate them with His grace. I wish I could say that a switch went off and this wonderful revelation freed me from fear. Although my heart was definitely changing, it was a slow process of chiseling away the fear, doubt, and lack of trust in God’s plan. The other component is dealing with the physical symptoms of fear. Feeling like you can’t breathe, your heart is racing, you’re going to throw up, and having muscles so tight you could bounce a coin off them is no joke. If I had any worthwhile advice to offer, it would be to keep your body moving. The physical symptoms of fear can be crippling and any exercise/activities you can do to relax your muscles is so important. To assist me in my sanctification process, the Lord has given me a daughter who also struggles with anxiety. She gets a “tight throat” and nausea. As soon as her symptoms begin, I tell her to tighten every muscle in her body starting with her toes and working all the way up to her head. Once her entire body is tense, she relaxes. I try to get her to do this several times. We also pray and talk about Phil. 4:8 and many other verses about fear, but it’s super hard to have a conversation with someone who just wants to throw up. It’s really helpful to have an arsenal of weapons ready to fight the physical stuff so you can begin to concentrate on addressing your thoughts. Just so thankful for this post. Fear is my thorn. I don’t like that it’s such a prevalent part of mine and my daughter’s lives…BUT, I know it’s temporary! God will make all things beautiful in His time and that includes a trembling, frail, and anxious thing like me!

      • Yes! I was hoping that you would include prayer!! A prayer points us upwards towards the One who is able. He is able. We carry this weight, this burden of worry with us, no matter the steps we take (as good as they are), because our eyes are on ourselves…our problems. When we lift our eyes up to the Lord and beg, cry out even this shift takes place and we remember Who. Is. Able. Seems like the easy, pias, good~girl Christian answer doesn’t it? But it isn’t , it isn’t b/c looking to God and not ourselves is hard. It means bending low and teaching our children to do the same….and that is, as I know you know Shawn, is hard to do.

  53. I am going to share some of your story with my oldest. I think he will be encouraged by what God has used you to do, despite your anxiety… what a testimony of His goodness and mercy. His ways are so much higher….
    kris´s latest post: Because He Delights In You~ {Link-up}

  54. avatar
    Kristine says:

    Wow – great ideas. I’ve had a hard time understanding and being patient with my daughter’s anxieties, but this is so helpful!!!

  55. This is great! I struggle with emetophobia (fear of vomiting or others vomiting) and related fears (fear of food, fear of germs, social anxiety, etc.). My older son is prone to anxiety (wonder who influenced in him in that direction?). These seem like very helpful steps similar to those I have used on myself or my son in the past. When trying to eat something I’m afraid to eat, I ask myself, “So what? So what if I get sick? I’ll get through it.” That helps me remember that the worst that can happen isn’t really that awful at all. Also, I focus on “one day at a time” and try to follow Jesus’ instructions not to worry about tomorrow. Finally, prayer is key for me – asking God for help, telling him what I need, talking it out with him. Even if no one else is available to listen, he always is. And then when I celebrate the successes, I feel naturally compelled to offer him very sincere, very childlike praise and thanks for what he has done. I know he is my protector, my refuge, and the one who will get me through whatever happens. I still struggle, but I’m climbing out of the fear pit and trying not to give up. I’m trying to teach my son this stuff, too – both by instruction and example.

  56. I cried when reading this, because it brought back lots of memories, but also because you made me feel better. As a parent when you see your child struggling with something, you want to just make them better, but anxiety is a self struggle, and being someone who has struggled her entire life for one reason or another and has learned to manage it I just want to help my child. I to as my son to just breathe, to tell me how he feels and what he thinks about anything, and I let him choose what he wants but do encourage him best my husband and I can, I am so thankful for your post and can’t tell you how much I appreciate your point of view/experience-thank you!
    Amy Akers´s latest post: blog rolling is usually my Sunday thing

  57. I rarely comment here, but I have to say this post is awesome. Definitely bookmarking to have on reference. I have struggled with anxiety since I was a little girl. I am blown away reading what you yourself have overcome, and how you walk through these situations with your sweet daughter.
    carrie´s latest post: Blog friends

  58. A friend posted this on my FB. My husband is anxiety driven and OCD. And my poor son, the middle child, is this way. He came out of the womb this way. I still remember when he was just a couple months old, how his little fingers were already “worrying” on the hem of my shirt sleeve. I also remember looking over at my husband, and how he “worries” on a pillowcase.

    My son has a constant stomach ache. I try so hard to be nonchalant or postitive, but let’s face it, some days I’m all “of course you have a stomachache, what’s new in your world?”

    In any case, we started with a therapist this summer – we are switching schools and I’m taking preemptive measures so he can better learn to cope with changes. It’s helping. Her focus right now is small successes – have him relish in small things he would normally fret about, like going alone to a friend’s house for an hour.

    People who don’t deal with anxiety/depression/panic attacks don’t fully understand. I wish I had a nickel for how many times people give me that look and say something along the lines of “just make him do it, tell him to man up and grow up.” It doesn’t bother me anymore, really because we’re working on it!

    Oh, my other recommendation for people needing help raising an anxiety driven child is to swallow your parenting pride and realize that an outsider, like a counselor, can offer more tools and perspectives than you can and a lot of times, your kid will pay attention to a “teacher” rather than the parent. It was so hard this spring to finally admit that I can no longer help him learn to cope because I just don’t know how to do it. I felt like a failure until about the 3rd therapy session when I realized how he was listening to her and that yes, in fact, I’m winning!!!

  59. By the way, I haven’t read your other posts yet, so I feel a bit trolling to comment without really knowing your stand on counseling or such. The tools you mentioned are perfect for parents….I had learned to do a lot of that over the years – my son is 9. It has been quite the 9 year trip in Anxiety World.

  60. My son has lower levels of anxiety, doesn’t like heights etc. I’m very proud that he started diving off the 3 meter high dive yesterday in spring board diving camp. He said he was “a little nervous” but other kids talking about how scared they were helped him out.

    My question is about test taking anxiety. My son freaks out over tests, especially math (6th grade). Do you have any tips on how we can help him? I already help him study for the test the night before to make sure he is prepared.

  61. I have had anxiety most of my life and now my youngest daughter has anxiety….the biggest thing is to listen but I have also found having a way out is a good thing for us…if we start feeling really uncomfortable we know we can leave the situation….there is always a way out. This makes us feel better and more in control.
    We have also cut all sugar and only drink herbal tea ***no caffeine for our family
    This has helped with our anxiety alot….I would recommend this to anyone with any kind of anxiety.

    Many Blessings,
    ~~Renee

  62. Wow. God is so amazing…thank you for this. As I read what you said about how your mom handled your anxiety, it made me tear up. I have been struggling so much with how to handle my daughter’s worries and fears. It’s so hard as a mom (and a worrier also) to not know what to do. We’ve been praying & trying to come up with ideas to help her. This has been a hard time…an international move, going from homeschooling to public school–I’m stressed out for her. Looking forward to helping her with coping skills now; not making her feel worse, but empowering her to have the time & the space to figure it out. God Bless!

  63. This post is an answer to my prayer of the past 3 days. I have been anxious…AGAIN…about my 20 year old son’s girlfriend and just begging God for direction. Thank you! :-) …and I appreciate your comment about ruminator’s having the potential to solve unsolvable problems. I have known that I had that quality but I didn’t realize why.

  64. We’re still working on anxiety issues here, and probably will for the rest of our lives. I’d just encourage anyone dealing with anxiety in their family – themselves, their children, or a combination of the two – PLEASE DO NOT NEGLECT MAKING A *TRUSTED* AND *TRUSTWORTHY* PEDIATRICIAN PART OF YOUR OVERALL PLAN AND DO NOT FORGET TO RULE OUT ORGANIC CAUSES FOR ANXIETY! There may be more to the picture than just emotional/cognitive issues, and they really must be investigated!

    After dealing with anxiety all my life and watching both my daughters develop it in their own individual ways, too, a pediatrician finally put all the pieces of the puzzle together this year when she realized we have a genetic connective tissue disorder and secondary dysautonomia (dysregulation of the autonomic nervous system). Joint pain, fatigue, gastrointestinal issues, blood pressure issues (low), tachycardia, and much, much more, including an occasional impending sense of doom *plus* hypermobility and stretchy skin are *genetic* issues for us. But until a doctor thinks to look for the physical signs, they may well continue to attribute all of the other issues to anxiety.

    Any anxiety definitely needs to be dealt with – but an organic cause needs to be ruled out, too! Not so much because of what it may mean for treating the anxiety – though the anxiety can never be fully treated if there is an organic cause if you don’t do what you can to treat that cause (in our case, treating the blood pressure issues, etc. – for me with medication, for the girls right now – with self-care measures) – but because of what it may mean is potentially going on in the rest of the person’s physical body, including potentially life-threatening problems!

    It turns out all of those years when I was telling doctors I never really worried about anything until my body would start kicking into overdrive and then my mind would start looking for things to worry about (and there was no shortage of such things in my family) – I was right. It started a perpetual cycle. And that’s just what has been happening to my children. But still, I was diagnosed with anxiety, anxiety disorders, “stress reactions” more times than I can count. Thankfully our wonderful pediatricians never rushed to throw labels at our daughters.

    I greatly appreciate your insight and all you’ve shared. These are many of the same ideas I have used to try to treat my children with a gentler, more understanding (than I ever had from my anxious parents) approach. Now that we understand the role their physical bodies are playing in the larger picture, we can come at it from more than one direction and treat it successfully.

    I just wanted to share all of that because if there is even one other person reading who also has a similar genetic issue, it is worth taking the time to speak out about it. Thankfully, with the type of disorder we have (Hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome with secondary Dysautonomia (currently diagnosed as Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome – though the specific name may change)), we are not at high risk for life-threatening issues, only life-altering, and so far our hearts have checked out just fine.

    But there are types of Ehlers-Danlos, and other genetic connective tissues disorders (gctd’s), which do pose life-threatening risks to those who have them. Far too often, people with both the gctd’s and types of dysautonomia are misdiagnosed as having anxiety issues. While it’s good to have a gentle approach to anxiety, I cannot stress enough how important it is to know if there is a physical problem either causing or contributing to the anxiety symptoms!

    Please help us spread the word about how important this aspect of anxiety is!!! It just may save a life – literally!
    Kari´s latest post: Face to Face with Falling Apart

    • Thank you for that, Kari. So glad you brought up the need to seek medical help. This being only a blog post, I was constrained and couldn’t cover every possible dimension and definition of anxiety. So glad you chimed in with your expert knowledge and advice to add much needed scope.

      I too have benefited from a great doctor who has taught me how to eat. The most beneficial dietary change? Nixing soft drinks. Amazing how much better my brain works now.
      Shaun Groves´s latest post: Parenting A Child With Anxiety

      • Diet does help. We went gluten-free more than a year ago as an experiment and the results were amazing both for our bodies and our minds – all four of us in different ways.

        But this is also about so much more than helping brains work better, though that’s a worthy goal in and of itself. Investigating for/ruling out a biological cause first may mean the difference between finding a child’s heart defect early, when it can be fixed or their lifestyle altered, or when they have collapsed at a high school sporting event and it is too late. We’re not just talking about making things better – but about keeping children alive.
        Kari´s latest post: Face to Face with Falling Apart

    • Hi Kari – thank you for pointing out a medical reason for anxiety. I have a dear friend whose teenage daughter was finally diagnosed with dysautonomia after being told she was stressed. I don’t know the age of your children, but my friend and her daughter have started a blog and a foundation to help other teenagers with dysautonomia. The website is mikshiddenheartsalliance.wordpress.com if you and your children would like to check it out. By the way, I’m a new reader and if I have just committed a major faux pas by recommending another website, I sincerely apologize. Please let me know and I’ll make sure I don’t do it again. Best wishes!
      Jenny´s latest post: The Reluctant Outdoorsman

  65. I love this article, i had anxiety as a child and had to be medicated at times. It didn’t help that my father was in the Armed Forces, so moving itself was an axiety making problem all on its own, throw in school and it was heinous at times. Luckily i had some great teachers and a fantastic mother who would let me voice my fears and find a way to overcome my anxiety. My son who has ADD and OCD also has anxiety. I deal with it when it surfaces, by meeting his anxiety head on and letting him express what his anxiety is about, and finding a solution that will let him do what his anxiety is telling him not to do( attend a birthday party etc). He still has bouts of anxiety when we least expect it, but knowing how to react and be postive is how we approach and try to get through these feelings.
    Thankyou for this great article, I think it is more common than people want to admit.

  66. My husband has OCD and I have perfectionism so we are just counting on our children having something on the anxiety spectrum! Even though our baby is only 2 we have noticed that she is more clingy than other children her age. She has already had a manifested panic attack, yikes!

    We just plan on introducing her to counseling at an early age since both of our parents resisted providing us with professional help we would rather have a psychologist tell us she doesn’t need any help than have her struggle through years of depression like her parents!

    Thanks for the post. I think mental disorders (especially anxiety) have such a negative association that people shy away from them and are embarrassed. I think more people suffer from them than we realize and it’s great to hear about others’ successes as they embrace and overcome the debilitating results of anxiety.

  67. I think that this was great for a few reasons, but most of all because you acknowledge that a child’s anxiety is valid, even if it is not always sensible. I was an incredibly anxious child… sick everyday before school and everytime I was away from my family even though there was no real reason for my anxiety. I remember my mother acknowledging it and getting the response “What does she have to worry about? She’s just a kid.” Just because a child is a child, does not make their panic any less real and it needs to be addressed and coped with. Thanks!

  68. avatar
    Tiffany C. says:

    As a parent who at times deals with overwhelming anxiety and who has an adopted daughter with social/separation anxieties, i thank you for these insightful, practical, helpful thoughts.

  69. Hi Shaun! Loved your article. As a child psychologist, I’m often hearing from parents who don’t know what to do for their children with anxiety. Your post covered all the bases in a way that totally makes sense for moms and dads when relating to their anxious kids. I have always been a worrier myself, and my 7 year old daughter has significant anxiety as well. The apple does not fall far from the tree, that’s for sure! For clients (and my own children) I’ve also loved the kid friendly workbooks “What To Do When You Worry Too Much” and “What To Do When Your Brain Gets Stuck,” both by Dr. Dawn Huebner. They are cognitive behavioral workbooks that parents can use at home with their anxious kids. Of course, I agree that child psychologists and pediatricians should be involved in the treatment process as well, but I always encourage parents to try things at home on their own too! Take care!
    Polly @ ChildPsychMom.com´s latest post: There But For The Grace Of God Go I: The Colorado Massacre

    • Polly, your endorsement means a lot and alleviates a lot of my…worry ; )

      Seriously, today I’ve worried often that what I’ve written works for only me and mine and isn’t the sort of thing that would be helpful to many. Thank you for your encouragement. Means more than you could know.
      Shaun Groves´s latest post: Parenting A Child With Anxiety

    • Polly, thanks for the book titles i will definately look these up. Sometimes when my son see’s something in print that is about what he is feeling, he feels he is not alone. I have also taken my son to a great therapist which has helped tremendously.
      Jill
      Jill Robson´s latest post: More than one way to skin a cat!

  70. I liked your “worst case scenario” idea, and plan to try that out. I couldn’t tell from your post whether or not you’re a Christian, so if you’re not, please just disregard these questions.
    At what age or point do you/did you confront anxiety as the sin of pride and help your kids learn to go to their Heavenly Father for victory? Are there any verses you could recommend? Can children learn to change the ruminating worry into prayer like adults?
    Thanks!

  71. avatar
    Niki Blake says:

    Shaun…..this is awesome. Somehow, God helped this anxious parent in parenting my anxious child. I have done some of these things, talk therapy and really….just listening. :) I have no idea how we got through some of it, but we did with God’s grace. I am sharing this with so many of my friends who are parenting anxious children. If anything, it has been a blessing to share with those friend’s my road with my son. :) We take it day by day but God has been good and we are getting through it. Thanks for an amazing post! :)

    Niki Blake

  72. avatar
    Shelly Smith says:

    So, so good. Thank you! I have a 9 year old son with anxiety (myself, as well) and I find that I am the only “compassionate” one in our family to be sensitive to his fears. Extended family members have lovingly suggested that I am “babying” him. But, I am sure that he needs the comfort of a compassionate and listening ear. I do not want to push him and later lose him, due to extreme anxiety! We are working through some “smaller” issues with anxiety related to performance (recitals for your daughter, swim meets for our son!) I have found that giving him “tools” to work through his anxiety (relaxation techniques, music therapy/headphones with music at meets, and praying together as needed) has been helpful. Also, I do insist that he stay through the uncomfortable event, even if he does not want to participate (especially since his brother also swims and we stay to watch, even if he bows out of the race.) Your final suggestion, celebrate success, has also worked well for us. We like to make a big deal about completed races (not just for winning, but just “getting through”!) and small incentives/rewards, which he has responded to very well! Thanks again for all your helpful words!

  73. I so needed to read this today… as I send my anxious child off to school alone, without her twin sister, something she finds very difficult. Thank you.
    katepickle´s latest post: Crocs on the Rocks – Real Life Wednesday

  74. Wow. Thanks for this. All 3 of my daughters have moments of anxiety – set off by very different things – but it’s my middle daughter that is of most concern to me. Her anxiety can completely derail an otherwise “perfect” (nothing’s really perfect in this life, is it?) day/outing/moment. I think my biggest obstacle is my own patience with her. I try to do what you have suggested – listening, talking over expectations (i.e. what she can expect is going to happen) – but here’s the rub. She has some speech issues and so is either hard to understand or can’t think of the words she needs, so she shuts down. All attempts to prompt her thought process are met with dead silence and stone faced expressions. I have learned that if we leave her once she has shut down she will often work things out in her own mind and attempt to follow through on the thing we are asking her to do. But sometimes it is just not possible to give her that opportunity to cocoon and regroup. I have suffered bouts of depression in my life and my husband was painfully shy (really just another way of saying anxious, right?) until he was an adult. His mother gets debilitatingly anxious and I worry that my daughter will become like her without help now.
    I will get my husband to read this and see what he thinks. Thanks again.
    Alison Day´s latest post: What’s up?

  75. Terrific post. I have three boys — 7, 5 and 2 — not sure if any of them have debilitating anxiety. I have struggled with anxiety for a lot of my 37 years. For the past few years, it was the worst. The way that I have overcome it was learning from a book called Unmerited Favor about the amazing grace of the New Covenant — that Jesus’ finished work on the Cross means that I don’t have to rely on my own works to earn eternity with Him. I seriously now cast my every care and worry at His feet and know that the Creator of the universe (who has at His disposal all the resources of the universe and beyond) LOVES me and listens to my heart. I am blissfully at peace floating in an ocean of His love. Essentially, I was transformed by understanding His great love and grace for me :) So, if anxiey creeps up in one of my children, we will turn to God to ask for His Holy Spirit to calm our fears and to give us peace knowing that He loves us more than we can fully comprehend and that He is big and strong enough to help us :)

  76. Hi Shaun,
    Thank you so much for sharing this. I suffered with anxiety until my early 20′s when I was finally able to break free – panic attacks, dissociation {like floating over my body and seeing things happen to me but not feeling it}, excessive worry, etc. Now I have a son with anxiety. And, I want to affirm your conclusions. Because of my experience, I am able to more easily empathize with him in order to help him manage is symptoms. Yet, I still make mistakes. Thank you for the tips and reminders .
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  77. avatar
    Prairie Rose says:

    Thanks… I do push mine to do things a lot though solely because I remember in a study Beth Moore once said the best way to overcome fear is to just DO whatever it is you’re afraid of. This truly has worked wonderfully for my 5-year-old foster adopted child who, when she came to me, was diagnosed with “the most severe anxiety I’ve ever seen in a child of her age”, according to her counselor, and is now thriving — still nervous about trying new things, but she DOES do it and is always SO proud of herself when she does. Building self-esteem the right way. I do think there’s a difference between a “You have to do this, just get over it” kind of pushing which may be what you’re referring to, and the way I do it — I “push” her into doing things by telling her how proud of herself or how much fun she’ll have if she does it, and I do also bring in, “What terrible things do you think might happen if you do this?” and then we discuss them, as you suggest.

  78. This is great!
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  79. Thanks Shaun for this article. My middle child is quite anxious & a perfectionist although he’s only 6. My mother, brother & sister are all quite anxious but although I have had moments of anxiety in my life I find it very hard to know what to do to help him. It’s heartbreaking sometimes so this has been really helpful & given me some more ideas to help him. Thanks so much.

  80. From a recovering anxious, panicky, agoraphobic mama with two anxious kiddos…thank you for this. :)

  81. I disagree. You should push your child. If you continually allow children to avoid their fears, you are encouraging a pattern of avoidance. Sheltering them from scary moments does not help their situation. Your child needs to develop coping mechanisms; this will allow them to know that anxiety is okay, but it will not rule their life. Building self-esteem and feelings of accomplishments come from facing your fears. When they grow up and get a job, you will not be there to shelter them; if you prepare them now, it will be better.

    • Depends what you mean by push. The way I used the word here? No, I don’t think I benefited from that as a child wracked with anxiety.

      What I’m prescribing here does, by one definition, “push” children past their fears. Of course, it looks and feels (I hope) more like walking with them through their fears than dragging them in that direction.
      Shaun Groves´s latest post: Parenting A Child With Anxiety

  82. I’ve definitely struggled with anxiety and wonder if my daughter will as well. Thinking about the worst case scenario and realizing it wouldn’t be the end of the world helps a lot. That, and interrupting my thoughts and replacing them with truthful ones. This is a great post. Thanks.
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  83. One of the most. Practical. Helpful. Posts. Ever! I can put it into action immediately. Thank you!

  84. thank you for this post, shaun! your suggestions here were eye-opening to me in how to encourage rather than force my oldest when she faces situations that cause her anxiety.
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  85. What a beautiful post, thank you! Sometimes when my kids are anxious, I find my own anxiety ramping up in reaction. This is such a wonderful reminder to take a deep breathe and simply help them through the moment. Thank you! Sincerely, Elizabeth
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  86. thank you for this helpful insight! my four year old son has anxiety, and since i don’t, sometimes i find it hard to understand it. this is very helpful for me to learn how to love him thru his anxious moments without making it worse. thanks so much.

  87. Thank you so very much! My middle son has been having problems with anxiety! I also have never experienced it until three years ago, and I have problems dealing with it myself. I find this article very helpful!

  88. thanks for the post….and inspiring all these great comments- it’s helpful
    priest’s wife (@byzcathwife)´s latest post: An August Daybook

  89. My nearly-6 year old has been high needs, intense, and easily stressed/anxious since birth. I totally agree with your post, Shaun, as well as the commenters suggesting medical guidance; discovering and treating my daughter’s multiple severe food intolerances has helped her system not always be in “flight or fight” mode.

    We have had excellent results with acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine. Ask around for recommendations (people who know a great practitioner are dying to share this info with anyone who is interested!) and find someone who not only knows their stuff, but has that special intuitive gift of Healing that schooling cannot endow.

    Taking seriously your spiritual authority over your child and praying against the spirit of Anxiety (or whatever they are struggling with) is vital. Teach your children the rudiments of spiritual warfare and the gift of the holy spirit as their Comforter. This is an element in the equation that I think people feel super cheesy about, or just flat out deny is reality, and yet it often holds the greatest sway over our lives!
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  90. This is excellent advice for being around a person with anxiety, living with one or having any sort of relationship with someone who is anxious. Thanks!

  91. avatar
    Kelly@www.orgforlife.com says:

    Shaun:

    Thank you for this post. I started having panic attacks at 25 and deal with anxiety every day. A question I have is when I think about the “worst case scenario.” In most instances I can work through this, but what about flying? In that case, the worst case scenario is death. And that is something I can’t work past. I am a Christian and believe I am saved, but I still don’t want to die. I have a great husband, 2 great little kids, and a great life. I don’t want to leave it. So I can’t just say, “Oh well, if I die I die!!” So then I don’t fly.

    I am missing out on a lot in life by not flying. I am missing opportunities to see exciting places and see family and friends. I want to fly. But I don’t want to die. And that’s the worst case scenario.

    • I hear you, Kelly! My anxiety stemmed from food allergies: “What if I eat this food and I have a severe reaction and die?” But I soon realized, I have to eat to live. And sometimes we have to step out of our comfort zones to truly live.

      I believe God does not shame us for our anxieties and is even more present in them. I pray you learn to face the fear and know that God is ultimately in control, whatever the scenario. But I definitely know where you’re coming from.
      Jordy´s latest post: Here’s to August.

  92. What an excellent post! I have suffered from anxiety my entire life, and have a teenage son who has struggled with this as well. Your insight and recommendations are so valuable. Thank you for sharing!
    Joanna´s latest post: What To Feed: A Mother’s Choice

  93. As a 27-year-old with anxiety, I think is a huge resource on how to deal with ANYONE who has anxiety. I have already sent it to my mom and husband!

    I think the biggest take-away is that you can’t tell the person to just get over it or stop thinking about it. Unfortunately, that is just what anxiety is – we can’t control where our mind goes.

    Thanks for the insight and I will be using this in my own healing as well. I would love to see more articles on the subject! People just don’t talk about it too often.
    Jordy´s latest post: Here’s to August.

  94. I ABSOLUTELY love this post and appreciate your sound advice. My child had anxiety (I can honestly say the worst is in the past) and I wholeheartedly agree with everything you’ve said here. So wonderful that your empathy allows you to be such a sensitive parent.

  95. THANK YOU!!! I had already tried some of these tricks with my little worrier and it’s good to know I was on the right track. As a mom it is always so hard to help and even harder to get teachers and other adults to understand. Any advice on working with teachers and helping them understand?

  96. I have struggled with anxiety for years! In college I would skip meals because I was too overwhelmed walking in the dining hall and finding a place to seat. No one understood that fear because I always had friends. Your suggestion of imagining the worst case scenario is very helpful. You can imagine yourself successfully overcoming it. Unfortunately those of us who panic cannot remember to slow down and think through situations in the moment. Out of the moment we can practice and it will help us when we acquire anxious situations.
    Amy´s latest post: It is good to come home…

  97. Having been a child with severe anxiety and now raising a child beginning to show signs of what I call “anxious brain” (it makes it sound more like something we adapt to rather than a disease or disorder, especially to my son) I have been struggling on how to help him because it was only through trial and error that I learned and I don’t want to see him have to learn “the hard way” so to speak. I want to teach him ways to cope and get through his moments of anxiety at an early age so that it becomes just an extra step or two in his life vs. a debilitating issue. This article has been one of the best approaches I have read. Thank you!

  98. I was such an anxious child! I don’t know how many times we had to stop on the way to school for me to get sick if there was anything remotely stressful happening. My mom was more the “just stop” trying to get me to do whatever I was trying to get out of. My father had been anxious as well as a child and I remember him saying “I had this exact same problem, it will get better, you will grow out of it.” I was skeptical, but I eventually did.
    Fortunately, neither of my kids are showing nearly as severe signs as I had…hopefully some of my husband’s genes have helped to dilute it!
    Thanks for your suggestions Shaun, I will bookmark this article!

  99. I have an anxious child and have two resources to recommend: Tamar Chansky’s book “Freeing Your Child from Anxiety” and the Cool Kids Program out of Macquarie University, which we did with a professional counselor. It had amazing results. It gave us a language to use when the anxiety hit, so we could talk about feelings and thoughts, and how to move out of anxiety.

  100. Thank you for your honesty — it’s so hard to be honest about having anxiety when so much of having an anxious personality/temperament is tied up in “what people will think”. Being able to pinpoint the aspects of the way you were parented and how they hindered your ability to move through your anxiety was really illuminating for me (as both an anxiety-prone person and as the parent of an anxious child). I find myself losing patience and trying to “push her through it” and then feeling perplexed and frustrated with myself for not having the empathy I myself needed when I was a child. I think it’s because I don’t want her to suffer the same way I did. In fact, my own anxiety about her having anxiety compels me to behave this way in my parenting because at the core, I just want to make it go away. My heart aches for her. Thank you for giving me this perspective.
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