How to Parent a Child with Anxiety Issues
Parenting Kids with Anxiety Issues
by Amy Egan
This past year I had a few coaching sessions with a couple of two elementary aged kids. Collin, a fifth grader and Cara, a second grader. Our first two visits we spent mostly working on new, more effective parenting skills when handling Collin. He was a pretty good-natured boy but his parents had typical tweenaged frustrations with him. He was a little disrespectful, a little argumentative and tended to pull them into power struggles. They were becoming beaten down by these things – but more than that, concerned about his anxiety level. Collin was a very anxious boy.
We mostly developed plans for handling his disrespect and the power struggles. After reading suggested materials and a couple of coaching sessions, they began to do the following on a consistent basis.
- remained calm when dealing with him
- set a limit with him by issuing ONE warning
- followed through with the consequence when the only warning was not heeded
- stopped arguing with him or defending themselves
- became okay with him being unhappy or angry with them
- became more confident parents
I had not seen Collin’s parents in several months until recently. They came to see me for the information I had on overcoming learning/cognitive disabilities. Cara is showing signs of dyslexia and possibly processing disorders. Once we covered this information, I asked how things were going with Collin. I was thrilled to hear they had done well in using their new parenting skills and their frustration level with Collin had dropped remarkably. Then we talked about his anxiety issues. They were happy to report that he seems to be ‘growing out of them’. They happily listed many of things he now does on his own that a few short months ago, would never have been possible.
This is far from the first time I have heard this story. Parents of a high anxiety child come to me for an easier, more effective way to discipline. They adopt the techniques and in doing so, become the parents the child truly needs and, down deep, even craves . They become lovingly and firmly, in charge. As Ceasar Millan, The Dog Whisperer calls it, they become the pack leaders. They are happy to be seeing positive results when it comes to discipline. Then, down the road, they realize that their high anxiety kid is not so anxious anymore. Until I help them connect the dots, they see the two subjects as unrelated.
If you have a very anxious child(ren), ask yourself a few questions.
- Are you yelling a lot?
- Do you have frequent power struggles with your children?
- Do you argue with them?
- Do you frequently give up and let them have their way?
- Is the expression on your face one of exasperation when dealing with your children?
- Do you have your children’s respect?
If you answered yes to a few of these, your child is bound to be anxious. Living in an environment where the adults are not confidently in charge, adds much stress to a child or teen. The child is unable to respect to the parent. This causes guilt and more stress.
The best thing you can do for your anxious child is to be sure you are a strong and good leader. If you know you are not, I suggest getting parenting help with a coach, therapist, or at the very least, some reading or listening materials. (The Love and Logic Inst is a great place to start when looking for materials.)
Be sure not to beat yourself up if you have been less than the parent you’d hoped to be. Now is the best time to make changes. Whether your child is a toddler or a late teen, it is truly NEVER too late!
Feel free to contact me for coaching. I enjoy working one-to-one with parents or via telephone with out-of-town clients!
~ Happy Parenting
Amy Egan is a parenting consultant and life coach. She coaches privately, loves to speak to parent organizations and hosts several weekly life coaching groups for women and moms. If you are interested in private or group coaching contact Amy at firstname.lastname@example.org or Like her parenting page on Facebook, Amy Egan – Texas Parenting.