139: 3 Ways to Help Your Anxious Child

Welcome! To listen to today’s episode, scroll all the way down to the bottom of this post and hit the triangular “play” button. Enjoy the show!

When listener Marcy wrote recently, asking for help with her son, whom “counselors and therapists believe may be suffering from depression and anxiety,” and the decision to either keep him in school or pull him out to homeschool, I initially thought I’d answer her question in a Your Child Explained episode, and address the school-homeschool decision.

On reflection, however, I saw something bigger in Marcy’s question and decided to focus this Just You and Me episode on the bigger issue: how to help when a child is anxious or depressed.

Kids can be anxious and/or depressed for any number of reasons.

As parents, even if we are not completely sure what’s causing the worries and anxiety, it’s our job to do everything we can to help.

Click weturnedoutokay.com/139 to read Marcy’s full question and the three ways I identify to help, as well as links to other helpful resources!

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Marcy writes:
“Hello, I have a 12-year-old son in 6 grade. He has been refusing to go to school on and off ever since fifth grade. We’ve taken him to counselors and therapists and they believe he may be suffering from depression and anxiety. We are scheduling a meeting with a child psychologist. His teachers enjoy having him in class and he understands his assignments and subjects. He just says it’s too boring and you don’t have enough time to talk to friends when you are in school.
In the meantime, do you have any suggestions on how to get him to school or should we just homeschool or online school? His teachers, counselors, and therapists don’t suggest we go down the homeschool online route.
HELP!!!!”

As I try to do whenever y’all write in with a question, I sent Marcy book suggestions that I thought would help her make the decision about whether to keep her son in school or begin homeschooling.

Then, as I was preparing to answer this question in the podcast, I realized that it’s a much bigger question than To School or Not To School.

Regardless of whether Marcy’s son stays in school or comes out, he still has anxiety and depression. And, while I’m not a therapist or psychologist, my training and experience as a teacher and parent helped me identify three important factors in aiding our anxious children:

1) Spend time with them.
Especially, spend time doing the things that your kids love to do: throwing a ball together, swimming, stamp-collecting, play dough – it doesn’t matter as long as it’s together time WITHOUT screens.

2) Listen to them; answer their questions.
This can be harder than it appears! Listening requires setting aside our own ideas and expectations, to truly hear what our sons and daughters have to say.
Marcy, because your son is articulating that he is bored in school and doesn’t feel that he has enough time for friends there, I believe that if you can find ways to alleviate the boredom and help him connect with friends, that may be something that’s truly helpful in your situation.
As we listen to our kids talk, we also need to especially listen for their questions, which won’t always be in the form of questions.
Is the child looking for reassurance that you’ll help him get through a certain situation? Is she looking for your ideas to help her come through this tough time? Do they just need a hug and your communication that you understand what they’re going through?
Knowing that your mom or dad is in your corner – that they’re always there for you even if you’ve gotten in trouble or don’t know what to do – is what 2) is all about.

3) Adopt and keep a solid routine.
Eating dinner together as a family, limiting screens in the hours before bedtime, making sure kids are in bed in time for a good night’s sleep – these are key to helping children surmount anxiety and depression.

Key Links:

Click here for last week’s episode, my conversation with licensed mental health counselor Janine Halloran of copingskillsforkids.com.

Click here for author Alfie Kohn’s Amazon page; Alfie’s entire career has been spent learning about kids’ reactions to school and he’s got many great suggestions on the best mindset we can have as parents about kids and school.

Click here to look into the book I wrote about every day discipline, Positive Discipline Ninja Tactics, and here to learn more about the Ninja Parenting Community, where I get to work more closely with you if you’re worried about your child (or your own sanity while you raise him or her).

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