Don't scare your kids from uncomfortable situations
Posted on Aug 26 2014 | IANS
New York, Aug 26 : How parents treat anxious kids actually decides if they will be able to cope with fear or not when they grow. The key here is to save kids from falling into the "protection trap".
Parents may fall into the "protection trap" with scared children that is helpful in the moment but reinforces their long-term feelings when the kids realise that they receive positive attention from the behaviour.
"A certain amount of anxiety is normal and necessary to stay safe. It is when the problematic levels of anxiety crop up when you cannot go to school or hang out with friends that it becomes a major problem," explained Lindsay Holly, a doctoral student of clinical psychology at Arizona State University.
The study examined behaviours that may enable anxiety through reinforcement, punishment and modeling among 70 children aged 6 to 16 being treated for anxiety.
They found that anxious children often ask for reassurance far more than other children.
"Yet, reassurance in the face of anxiety and fear sometimes gives the message that there is something dangerous in the environment to worry about, thus promoting avoidance of every situation that is perceived to be scary," Holly emphasised.
Researchers identified another aspect of "protection trap" in parents who allow their kids to avoid situations that are scary or uncomfortable.
Excuses may be made in order to avoid scary things or situations and that can increase anxiety.
The more a child avoids a situation that may be scary, the scarier it becomes because they do not have a chance to overcome it.
"They are not given the chance to develop the coping skills or strategies to deal with the situation appropriately," Holly noted.
Sometimes parents swoop in to take control when a child starts to show signs of anxiety or fear.
"They do the scary thing for them. The children do not overcome the situation and they keep feeling anxious," researchers emphasised.
Being supportive and helping kids face their fears is really the key, concluded the paper published in the journal Child Psychiatry and Human Development.