As a parent, it’s natural to want to protect your child from pain and discomfort. But sometimes, our well-intentioned actions can actually make their anxiety worse. This is called enabling.
Enabling is when you do things for your child that they are capable of doing for themselves, or when you excuse their anxious behaviors. This can reinforce their anxiety and make it harder for them to learn to cope with it.
Signs that you may be enabling your child’s anxiety:
- You allow them to avoid all uncomfortable situations.
- You cover up for things they’ve done wrong or forgotten to do.
- You speak up on their behalf instead of letting them learn to express themselves.
- You enforce rules inconsistently because you feel bad for them or don’t want to upset them.
- You overreact to their anxious tantrums or meltdowns.
- You intervene with other adults to prevent them from experiencing disappointment or negative consequences.
If you’re concerned that you may be enabling your child’s anxiety, you can:
- Educate yourself about anxiety. The more you know about anxiety, the better equipped you’ll be to help your child.
- Talk to your child about their anxiety. Let them know that it’s okay to feel anxious sometimes, and that you’re there to support them.
- Help them to develop coping mechanisms. This could include relaxation techniques, problem-solving skills, and exposure therapy.
- Encourage them to face their fears gradually. Don’t force them to do things they’re not ready for, but help them to take small steps towards their goals.
- Set clear and consistent expectations. Let your child know what you expect from them in terms of behavior and responsibility.
- Provide positive reinforcement. When your child faces their fears or copes with their anxiety in a healthy way, be sure to praise them.
It’s also important to remember that you can’t make your child’s anxiety go away completely. But by supporting them and helping them to develop coping skills, you can help them to manage their anxiety and live a full and happy life.
More tips for parents of children with anxiety:
- Model healthy coping mechanisms. Children learn by watching the adults in their lives. If you cope with stress and anxiety in a healthy way, your child is more likely to do the same.
- Create a safe and supportive environment. Your child should feel comfortable coming to you with their worries and fears.
- Be patient and understanding. It takes time for children to learn to manage their anxiety. Don’t get discouraged if they have setbacks along the way.
If you’re concerned that your child’s anxiety is severe or interfering with their daily life, talk to your pediatrician, mental health professional, or contact us. We can assess your child’s anxiety and recommend appropriate treatment.