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What If You Are Enabling Your Child’s Anxiety?

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Anxious children often pick up on and learn anxious behaviors from the important adults in their lives.1 Well-meaning adults, intent on safeguarding children against stressors, worries, and uncomfortable feelings, may inadvertently disallow them from learning essential problem-solving skills and coping mechanisms that help ward off anxiety.Thankfully, the inverse is also true: Parents can prevent anxiety from developing and/or worsening in their children by modeling and encouraging behaviors that promote resilience instead.2Too often, parents make the mistake of using catastrophic language to scare their children into obeying them.

A child old enough to stay at home alone only needs a directive like, “Lock the door and don’t answer it for anyone.” With catastrophic language, it becomes, “Lock the door and don’t open it or else a stranger will come in, kidnap you, and steal our stuff.”Emphasizing safety is important.

But catastrophic language and worst-case dramatics only teach children to scan for dangers at every moment, which fires up and over-activates the amygdala.Excessive corrective feedback happens when parents over-monitor children.

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