Parenting an anxious child can be a tricky process. You do not want to inadvertently reinforce their fears yet on the other hand you do not want to completely dismiss their feelings which could lead to frustration, tears or anger, for either you or your child. Maybe you have great strategies in place to deal with their anxiety, but what happens when there are siblings clamoring for attention or worse, antagonizing the anxious child?
Expectations remain the same
The anxious child does not get a free pass on basic expectations. They still need to be active participants in both family life and social activities. Parenting strategies may have to be different though. My extremely shy youngest child needs a little more encouragement and help in breaking activities down into small steps than my bold middle child. They still need to keep their rooms clean, turn school work in, say hello to guests and attend events, but the younger one needs a little more explanation and encouragement.
Work on strengths
Strategically build up your children by talking about their strong points in front of not only them and their grandparents of course. Let their siblings in on the fact that their brother or sister is extremely compassionate or has excellent organizational skills. A quiet, repeated reminder that they are especially good at something is important. Let them build on the skills by offering opportunities and use them to enrich the family. My daughter may be painfully shy, but she is also a whiz at cleaning. Without taking advantage of her skill, I am quick to praise her abilities so she knows her work does not go unnoticed.
Fair vs. equal
When the "It's not fair" card gets pulled, it can be hard to keep things in perspective. As a quick reminder, fair does not mean equal. You are in charge and you know the differences in your children. Treating each child exactly the same without any regard for age, ability, temperament, or circumstance would be less fair than making allowances as you see fit.
Feelings are us
Families of anxious children should not feel like they are held hostage by the anxiety-ridden child's emotions. It is normal to experience a wide range of emotions and this is something that needs to be addressed. Let all your children know that strong feelings are okay, but they need to be managed appropriately.
Build family identity
Siblings can have a hard time understanding why the whole family has to "suffer" because of their sister's silly fears. Or maybe they think the anxious child is faking it to get more attention. Combat this in two ways, first do not tolerate teasing or name-calling, that will only tear down your family. Second allow your child to express their frustration but let them know the anxious child is not benefiting from their fears. Plan activities all can enjoy, get the family laughing together, not at, one another and provide other outlets for the rest of the kids if appropriate like sports or time with grandparents.
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