Anxiety is like a caterpillar that when left unchecked can slowly chew its way through your child’s self-esteem.
One of the ways to nip this caterpillar in the bud is to explore it.
How do I do that you might say?
Talk to your child and simply explain what anxiety is and how it can make us feel. Give it a name. If your child has several dominant worries you might like to name each worry.
I have a child who has a phobia of anything creepy or crawly.
Let’s call this fear Mr Hairy Scary.
He’s like one of those big spiky stingy caterpillars.
The hair makes him appear bigger and scarier than he really is.
Much like our brain creates things to be bigger and scarier than they are.
Here are a couple of simple steps you might like to take:
Acknowledge your child’s fear. This connects you compassionately which immediately helps to soothe him.
Allow them the space to talk about how they feel. Our instinct might be to rush in protect and soothe by saying you’re OK, your fine, it’s not on you and change the subject.
Give him the space to talk without saying anything like that’s silly. Remember no feeling is ever silly. My son would say something like, thinking of that caterpillar makes me feel tingly all over and I keep imagining it crawling on me.
Name the fear - This fear is Mr Hairy Scary. You might have Mr Darius Dark who gets all active when its time for bed and the lights are off. Try and give it some fun identifying features, maybe big googly eyes or huge droopy ears.
Asking questions. How likely is it for a caterpillar who loves the leaves on that tree to leap off and onto you? Has that ever happened before? Is this really a threat or Mr Hairy Scary going into overdrive warp speed again?
Younger children can find it helpful to draw their worry caterpillar. This can help express their fears and learn to distinguish the fear from the reality.
And finally encourage children to take slow, deep breaths to reduce the physical reaction to fear. You might like to breathe with them while holding their hand or give them a hug and breathe through it together.