Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Philippians 4:6
Therapists at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN have developed an innovative approach to helping children overcome anxiety. It’s called Exposure Therapy. Exposure Therapy involves gradually exposing children to things or situations they fear. The key is to SLOWLY expose the child to the things that cause them anxiety. Instead of avoiding situations, the child begins to learn new behavior.
Here are some practical examples. If the sight of a dog causes anxiety, the first step might be to have the child sit in the same room with a very docile dog. If the child is anxious about an upcoming trip on an airplane, a visit to the airport to watch take-offs and landings (weeks before the trip) can help relieve anxiety.
The parent’s role is very important. Remember, it is “Exposure Therapy” not Avoidance Therapy. The parents must not overreact or over-protect.
It’s important for the parent to encourage decision-making. Mom and Dad need to avoid making all the decisions for their child in these areas. Instead, assume the role of an encourager. Encourage the child to take small steps forward. Yes, those steps might initially be uncomfortable. Parents need to understand there is a connection between encouraging this exposure and the child overcoming his or her anxiety.
One more thing…Parents, don’t praise before actual progress has been made. And when you do, make sure it is honest, positive reinforcement.
What steps have you taken to help your child overcome anxiety?