In the absence of other explanations, kids assume that their fears and worries make sense, are messages to heed, or at the very least that they are stuck listening to them. They usually believe that their level of fear is an accurate reflection of how dangerous a situation is, instead of knowing that their fear is a reaction to thinking scary thoughts about a situation. Like cracking the code in a math problem, when parents step in and re-label worry as just one line of thinking which can be challenged by alternative tracks, this opens up possibilities for new ways of understanding what is happening in the mind and the body and gives kids a new sense of control and hope. Helping kids know that being afraid isn't the same as being in danger is an empowering discovery. Understanding that hearing scary stories would make any one afraid, kids can learn that one important way of reducing anxiety is by changing the story their mind is telling them about the situation. Once they are less afraid, it will be easier to approach events and situations which have previously been avoided.
For ideas on how to explain anxiety to your child click here to go to Script for Very Young Children and click here to go to Script for School Aged Children and Teens.
Brought to you by The Children's and Adult Center for OCD and Anxiety.