Anxious children deal with several issues that negatively impact their daily life, such as social and academic difficulties in school.
These issues are often the only ones noticed by parents and tend to worry them the most while other symptoms of anxiety go unnoticed. What most parents don’t know is that many kids dealing with anxiety often also experience low confidence and self-esteem.
In fact, sometimes, low self-esteem can be a major cause of anxiety in children! This is why it’s essential to focus on your children and work on a plan to boost their confidence.
Here are five ways to boost self-confidence in your anxious child and reduce their stress and anxiety:
Let them know they’re not alone
One of the most effective things a parent can do to help their anxious child is to let them know that they’re not alone and offer them emotional support.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 7.1% of kids aged between 3–17 years suffer from anxiety, which means it’s quite common. But, anxious kids often feel that they’re alone when it comes to anxiety and that no-one else has it as bad as them.
Most kids with anxiety also feel uncomfortable seeking help. They often don’t know how to ask for help or may feel like a burden for feeling the way they do. This is why it’s essential to support your children, even if you don’t completely understand what’s going on in their mind.
A good way to do this is by letting them know that they’re not alone in their anxiety. You can make them understand that a lot of other people also suffer from ‘worries’ and that everything will turn out fine.
Communicate with your child and drive home the message that you love them unconditionally and are always on their side. This will help them feel more comfortable about sharing their feelings with you.
Keep in mind that it’s not enough to simply say that you love your child. You must demonstrate your love through actions and here are 11 ways you can do that.
Encourage positive self-talk
Unfortunately, most children with anxiety are really hard on themselves. They might refer to themselves as ‘weird’ or ‘stupid’ due to their anxiety. Such negative and harsh self-talk only worsens their condition and deteriorates their self-esteem even more.
You can counter this and boost your child’s confidence by teaching them the importance of improving their self-talk and language.
Replacing negative self-talk and the ‘I can’t’ mindset with a more positive perspective can help reframe their beliefs and reduce their anxiousness. Using statements like ‘I will’ or ‘I can’ can help them realise that although sometimes things may seem difficult, the situation is never as bleak as they imagine.
You can also ask your children to mention some good things about themselves and prompt questions like ‘Are you friendly?’, ‘Are you funny?’, and ‘What do you think is good about you?’ This will help your little one start thinking of what they actually are instead of what they aren’t, helping them focus on their strengths and reinforcing a positive mindset.
It’s also important to realise that a lot of parents are overprotective about their children. And they often spend a lot of time trying to “fix” or “improve” their habits and behavior by focusing more on the negatives than on the positives.
Unfortunately, this can backfire and may lead children to believe that they’re ‘not good enough’, which will induce anxiousness. Soon they might start being afraid of not meeting the expectations of their parents, friends, and teachers because they believe that they’re ‘just not enough’.
This kind of parenting inadvertently contributes to anxiety and teaches negative self-talk and should be avoided. This is also true for teachers, who play an important role in the development of your child’s self-confidence.
Some teachers criticise their pupils too much in an attempt to improve their grades, reinforcing negative self-talk. And while it’s almost impossible to choose your child’s teachers at school, you can connect them to a supportive online tutor using a service like Cluey Learning.
Be a good role model
It’s important to realise that your own anxiousness can rub off onto your children.
Anxiety is contagious and even more so if a child is particularly sensitive. Kids are perceptive and impressionable and keep scanning us to read our energy all the time.
If parents are anxious and don’t believe in themselves, how can they expect their children to be any different? If you want to help your child, then you need to lead by example. This means following all of the ideas in this article for yourself too!
Allowing yourself to receive support, adopting positive self-talk, and creating an overall atmosphere of confidence will encourage your kids to follow your lead. If you’re able to do this, you’ll establish yourself as a good role model and boost your child’s confidence. Here are some ideas on how to be an effective role model for your child.
Make a list of their strengths
It’s easy for children, especially those with anxiety, to focus only on the things they feel they’re bad at. That’s why you should try changing the script and have your little one focus more on the things they are good at.
You can do this by making your child write a list of the things they are good at and enjoy doing. For example, ‘I am good at singing and dancing’, ‘I like taking care of my baby brother’, or ‘I am great at maths.’ You can use this list to remind them of their strengths and counter anxiety when they feel scared.
For instance, if your little one wants to try out acting in a school play but feels shy, this written list can help remind them that they love to sing and dance and they shouldn’t let a bit of shyness stop them from doing what they love.
For older children and teenagers, similar lists can be used to help them confront and reflect on some of the negative thoughts they’ve encountered due to their anxiety.
Motivate your kids to write down these negative thoughts along with a few counter-arguments demonstrating why they might not be true. For example, ‘I told myself I’m not smart because I got a bad score on a math quiz I didn’t study for. However, one bad quiz doesn’t mean I’m not smart.’
Making a list like this can serve as a reminder of the good qualities they possess and can help your child develop self-confidence.
Find expert help
Finally, it’s important to realise that your child’s anxiety might be due to an underlying condition, especially if they’re a bit old.
Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) occurs when a person worries excessively about multiple aspects of their life (for example, education, relationships, and family). If you find your child worrying excessively about different areas of their life, they might have GAD.
Similarly, agoraphobia is a condition where a person fears being in a situation where they can’t escape or seek help. Examples include public transport, crowds, and being outside of home alone. If your child displays excessive anxiety in these situations, they may have agoraphobia.
Here are some ideas on managing agoraphobia that you can use to help your child.
Another condition worth looking out of is panic disorder, where people get unexpected panic attacks. People with panic disorder feel anxious about getting another panic attack, which is an important criterion for diagnosing the condition.
You should know that all of these conditions are specific medical diagnoses that require the help of a doctor. They can’t be diagnosed or treated at home. If you feel your child’s anxiety is due to an underlying condition, make sure to see a doctor.
Finally, the past couple of years have been extremely tough on some people. It’s very likely that your child’s anxiety might be due to the COVID-19 pandemic and all that came with it. So here are some ideas on how to manage anxiety due to Covid.
Dennis Relojo-Howell is the managing director of Psychreg.