When your child feels anxious, some things that are not challenges to others can seem like huge mountains for them. You might feel like it is something they just need to snap out of but no matter what you say, you can’t seem to calm them down. They are upset and their body language shows it. It is too much for both of you to handle so you push it aside to think about later.
Having feelings of anxiety can mean that your child is also worried about doing something that will help their anxiety. Maybe both of you know that talking to a therapist would help but your child is scared even thinking about sitting down with someone one on one to talk about how worried they were about meeting them! Maybe you are also worried about your child talking to a stranger. How could that ever be helpful? Maybe you ask your child to start exercising more to help with how they are feeling but they are worried about how they look in a gym outfit or what they would wear – it is just not worth the trouble. Maybe your child’s doctor suggested they take a medication but you both googled the side effects and are worried they would all happen. No way, your child is staying away from it.
How can anything help when everything is too scary to even try or think about?
One treatment which can help with phobias – or having an intense fear of something which might not always make sense to other people – is exposure therapy. This same type of technique might help your child with overcoming their fear of getting help. What your child can try with your help is to think about what is the scary thing they want to do? Now break it up into smaller pieces. Your child can rate those small pieces on how anxious they would make them feel. Think about how they might cope with that anxiety – could they talk themselves through it? could they go with a friend? could they do deep breathing? Sometimes little by little they can take on these challenges. If they need help for anxiety, asking for it is very important, but if they are too anxious to ask for help, its important to get themselves to that stage where they can ask.
Here’s an example – note the more you can help your child do these steps on their own without you doing it for them, the more it will help them with the anxiety:
Challenge: Scared to go to therapist
Break into steps:
- Google the therapist’s office and name online to see if you can read more about them
- Call your insurance to see if it would cover seeing the therapist
- Call the office just to ask questions about how appointments are set up and how often your child would come in
- Call the office to make an appointment
- A week before the appointment go to the office just to look around and know what it is like
- Go with your child on the day of the appointment and ask if you can also come in
- For the next appointment try to have your child go in by themselves
- Let the therapist know your child is anxious about talking to them and ask for help working on that before they open up about more sensitive things
Let us know if you tried it and how it worked for your child!