Sympathetically acknowledge they are anxious
Don’t avoid the subject or pretend it isn’t happening. Be upfront and understanding about their feelings without becoming upset yourself or giving the impression they are right to be anxious. So if your child is uptight about going to a Doctor’s appointment let her know that you can see she is on edge about it all. Try not to brush it off by saying something like ‘I can see you’re anxious but it will be ok.’ Instead try; ‘I can see you’re anxious; it’s hard isn’t it when we feel upset about what we have to do ……. Can you tell me more about what you’re thinking?’
Listen to your child
Let your child express themselves about exactly what it is that’s causing the upset. Avoid jumping in. So if he doesn’t want to be in his bedroom on his own hear his reasons and accept this is what he is feeling without dismissing his thoughts and feelings. Take care that you aren’t taking the sympathy too far and going into a ‘rescuing’ mode which takes the whole problem away from him (in this case that would mean staying with him in his bedroom all the time)
As you listen stay calm and collected. Mix your sympathy with a positive mind-set and a rational exploration of the problem
Give them another perspective
When they have had their say on how bad they feel and you have listened without judgement, let them know there is another side to the story. Keep things reassuring: There aren’t monsters under the bed and Mum is close by. Or, Doctors are there to help us get better rather than hurt us and if it is uncomfortable it will only last for a short while.
Prepare them for an anxiety-provoking event
Discuss a plan for the event when they are calm. So let her know what to expect at the doctors. Let him know what the plan is to keep him calm in his bedroom. Soothe any upset but don’t become agitated; stay strong yourself. Allow them a bit of a say in the plan; choice can help calm the mind (but beware that they aren’t choosing to avoid the situation completely). So choosing a special toy to take to a dreaded event can be helpful, especially if it’s one that will distract the mind. It can help to give them something to look forward to after ‘the ordeal’, so you might build in a little treat for afterwards.
The anxiety is real and your child will need support in facing the issue. Make sure they face it, but help them to cope
Break it down into small steps
One way to support your child is to break things down into small steps.
Slowly withdrawing from his bedroom bit by bit can be helpful as he gets used to being on his own. (Google ‘the camping out method of managing sleep issues’). Or letting him know you will be with him very briefly every 5 minutes in his bedroom may well soothe him enough to allow him to calm down
Building tolerance to the doctors by making step 1 a visit for a small non-invasive appointment can be helpful. ‘Desensitisation’, or getting used to unpleasant things slowly in small manageable steps, is a good way to solve anxiety issues.
Point out and celebrate any and all steps in the right direction even if they are very small; congratulate and consider a small inexpensive reward.
Build up resilience
Remember to build things up bit by bit so they get used to uncomfortable situations. Gently push and support your child slowly but surely towards being able to cope.
Reassure your child that worrying is ‘normal’ – best sorted out and we don’t allow it to ‘take over’
Talk openly about anxiety and how everyone feels it. It’s part of being human and there are ways of managing it and supporting ourselves so that it doesn’t get in the way of living our lives to the full. Encourage them to express their worries; help them to come up with solutions; support and coach them through tricky situations and celebrate bravery and success. Promote a balance of expressing feelings and ‘moving on’; try to prevent your child from becoming overly pre-occupied. Teach them and support them to distract themselves.