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  • Writer's pictureDr. Niemeyer

How to Support Your Child, Without Supporting Their Anxiety

I run a parenting class for parents of anxious children based on the SPACE Treatment model. One of the main tenets of this model is that we need to figure out how to help parents support their children, but not create a supportive environment for their anxiety.

This can be hard to wrap your head around. If my child has anxiety, how do I support her without supporting her anxiety? Isn’t the anxiety a part of her life experience and who she is?

First of all, your child is not their anxiety. Anxiety is a natural and normal part of the human experience, but it does not define who your child is. Many times children with significant anxiety tend to be mislabeled as anxiety being a strong part of who they are and how they interact with the world. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Think about it this way:

Your child is experiencing anxiety.

But your child does not have to be controlled by their anxiety.

So how do we support the child, but not support their anxiety?

Step #1 – Validate and acknowledge your child’s experience. Be a witness to their suffering and struggles. Praise them for their strength in managing their anxiety and their ability to push themselves despite the anxiety. When they are struggling, acknowledge how hard this must be and sit with them in their struggles. Problem-solve with them and help them to feel better. This is how you support your child.

Step #2Do not create an inviting and welcoming space in your family home for the anxiety to live. When you imagined your dream family, I am guessing you did not imagine having “anxiety” as one of your family members. Anxiety is an emotion we all experience, but it does not have to feel as if it is running your household. We decrease our support for the Anxiety by not fueling it with reinforcement, reassurance, or validation. If there is no fuel for the anxiety, it will decrease.

These are the basics of what we discuss in my Parenting Class. Through the class, we are able to break these steps down into actual goals that you will work on between each session. You will receive feedback for how to make these goals manageable and for how to tweak your goals to make them more effective.

Always, we will continue to focus on the core tenet of increasing support to our child and decreasing accommodation and support of their anxiety.

Please feel free to reach out if you are interested in learning more about this class.

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