How to Raise a Resilient Child - Part 3
Updated: Feb 15, 2019
Resist Excessive Reassurance-Seeking
For anxious kids and teens, getting reassurance from others about their worries creates a vicious cycle. Now, I know that "vicious" may seem a little far-fetched. Your child is asking repeatedly for some reassurance that his worry is unfounded. He doesn't want to be anxious. You want to make him feel better. What's the problem with that??
Unbeknownst to well-meaning parents trying to quiet their children's worries, they are inadvertently perpetuating the cycle of anxiety. Here's a rough idea of how the cycle of anxiety works:
As depicted, the problem with giving reassurance to kiddos with anxiety is that it gives them a momentary feeling of relief that ultimately does not last. Indeed, before long, another worry thought will inevitably follow and their brain will have learned that the best way to get relief from the resultant uncomfortable physical sensations and emotions is through seeking reassurance. Each time that this cycle occurs, it strengthens the child's belief that the only way to manage his anxiety is through seeking external reassurance. Aside from becoming bothersome to parents, this pattern also does not allow children to build their own coping tools or gain confidence in their ability to handle anxiety.
As you may remember from How to Raise a Resilient Child - Part 1,
at the heart of anxiety is a proclivity to overestimate the likelihood of feared outcomes and to underestimate one's ability to handle it if those outcomes do come to fruition.
Without meaning to, by providing reassurance in response to excessive reassurance-seeking, parents are teaching their anxious kids that they (the kids) can't manage their own anxiety and thus must depend on the parents' resilience to overcome it.
In order to disrupt this cycle of anxiety, anxiety treatment entails parents resisting the urge to provide reassurance and replacing it with more adaptive responses to their children's reassurance-seeking. There are several components that must be in place for this be successful, including a solid plan (to be discussed in advance with the child), consistency among caregivers, and a reliable set of coping tools for the child to utilize.
If your child is stuck in the cycle of anxiety, please know that there are many effective ways to disrupt this pattern and build up your child's resilience while decreasing his or her anxiety symptoms. The most powerful anxiety treatment strategies combine cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) with a family systems approach (which basically boils down to helping the entire family to learn and utilize effective tools and strategies to support the anxious child).
To learn more about cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety, please feel free to contact the office of Dr. Inna Leiter (in Media, PA) for an initial 15-minute consultation at 267-551-1984 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For previous articles from this series, please see: