I see you. I know how helpless you feel as you watch your kid unravel in worry and fear. I know the loneliness that comes when other parents seem to have it so easy. When simple things turn into big issues real fast. Then you aren’t sure how to turn the day back around. It’s hard. But it’s a lot easier when you aren’t caring for your anxious child alone. Practically how can you help your kid? And what role does faith have in caring for anxious kids?
I’m not a psychologist, but I’m a mom on the front lines. One of my kids is just like me. She has anxiety. But at first, I thought her daily “big emotions” were a behavior problem. I tried to contain the fits and outbursts. But then I realized the root of the problem ran deeper to her core. She wasn’t just throwing tantrums, she was fighting the mental illness of anxiety. And I realized it’s my job to equip her with tools to overcome. Here’s some ideas to get you started…
1.Diffuse YOUR anxiety and MODEL well
Many of us caring for anxious kids suffer from anxiety ourselves. I’ve noticed as my daughter spirals, my heart races, it’s hard to breathe, I fear losing control, and I easily go into freak out mode trying to control the situation. Wrong.
You and I need a plan to check our feelings at the door when caring for others. Explaining your process of combating anxiety is the first step. Tell your kid, “I’m feeling anxious so I need to….” For example, I tell my daughter to wait because I need to take some deep breaths, and I need to step away to a quiet room for a minute to calm down. She sees my healthy process of dealing with anxiety. Meanwhile, I ask God in prayer to help me see the situation through His patient and loving lens. So model your strategies and pray. (*side note, you may need counseling to cope with caring for your child. The healthier you are, the more you can help your kid)
2. Treat the Physical & get over judgment
Equip your kid with tools they can learn and implement when you’re not there– ones that will last through adulthood. Some ideas are therapy, essential oils, chiropractic care, physical therapy, yoga, meditation/quietness, diet change, stepping away to a safe environment. Be willing to try any healthy avenue you think could help your child because no two children are the same. Your kid may need therapy and oils while another may need more sleep and medicine. Don’t let others’ comments deter you from pursuing the best plan for your kid.
3. Model Spiritual tools
Each person has a body, spirit, and soul. So we can’t ignore that our kids suffering from mental illness need divine help as well as physical. Empower your child through Scripture and prayer. When kids feel powerless, they need to be reminded they have a powerful God. In meltdowns you can remind them they have a God who will never leave them when they are fearful, upset, or anxious. The seed of truth planted in hard moments will last a lifetime.
Pick three verses to focus on. They should be short and easy to memorize. My favorite verses I say to my daughter as she takes deep breaths and squeezes my thumbs in her room to calm down:
3. Listen Well
Last night my daughter told me, “I get mad and yell because you don’t listen to all I want to say.” Gulp. Sometimes my fix-it mind wants to hear part of her story and then make it all better. But that’s not what she needs. Kids with anxiety need a trusted adult who can sit with them in the hard and listen well. Not only does it bring to light their unseen anxiety, it also helps us understand the heart of the issue. As you listen, tune your ears for the core problem. Is it fear, loss of control, fear of failure, insignificance or feeling unloved? As we diagnose the real issue, we can guide the conversation back to truth.
Practice silence as you sit with or hug your child. I know dinner is on the stove and basketball practice is in ten minutes, but they are more important. Don’t try to hurry the process. Listen well. Hear the real fear. And gently guide the conversation back to truth. Sometimes the act of being silent and steadfast reminds my daughter she’s not alone and she’s able to work her way out just by me sitting quietly with her.
#4 Bask in Grace
You are an amazing parent. The fact that you clicked on this blog and want to empower your anxious kid shows it. I want to remind you that God promises to finish the work He starts in each of us. Especially our anxious kids. As we are faithful to equip, empower, and embrace them, Jesus is doing so even more. He hears our prayers. He sees our need. And He will give grace for each day however we need it as we surrender our kids to Him in prayer. God hand picked you to guide this child and He’s planted sufficient power within you through His Holy Spirit to do it.
I hope this post makes you feel less alone and more excited as you put into practice some new ideas. I want you to feel empowered as you do what’s best for your anxious child physically and spiritually. And I send you a virtual high-five and hug from one caregiving parent to another.
Featured Photo by Sai De Silva on Unsplash
Find your voice in the conversation. Q: What helps your kid overcome anxiety or panic attacks? Help other caregivers with your ideas by commenting below or on Facebook or Instagram.
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Andrea Chatelain’s mission is to meet women in their struggles and love them forward with God’s truth. She’s a Midwest mom of three, faith and family writer, and college English instructor to immigrants and refugees. She believes Jesus transforms lives when His people boldly seek Him. Her writing reflects her love for Jesus and heart for fellow believers.