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11 Ways Parents Turn Anxious Kids into Confident Children

By Jean Tracy, MSS

Is your child overwhelmed with worry and fear? If so, you can help him turn anxiety into confidence. Today I will list 7 mistakes you don't want to make, 3 worrisome situations for anxious children, and 11 easy steps for helping your over-sensitive child.

A worried child recycles dreadful thoughts. He pictures future situations as disastrous. He may get headaches, stomach problems, and have trouble eating and sleeping. He begs his parents, “Please don't make me.” Because he expects the worst, he feels anxious.

7 Mistakes Some Parents Make

1. Push their child to be “perfect.”
2. Criticize their child's failures.
3. Find fault with their actions.
4. Put down their child's fears.
5. Expect their child to fail.
6. Overprotect their child.
7. Avoid listening to their child's worries.

Parents might think it's best to minimize their child's emotions by saying, “Stop worrying. You're alright. You're acting silly.” But these words don't kids relax because they tell themselves, “Mom doesn't understand. Dad's too busy for me. My parents don't care about my feelings.”

Soon we'll look at ways to help anxious youngsters but first let's look more carefully at why kids worry.

Why Kids Worry

Some children have a natural tendency to be fearful. Their worry is a way of protecting themselves from harm. For instance, a child might imagine the worst about:

1. Giving a book report in front of the class
“I'll forget what to say, thought Jack. Kids will laugh at me and think I'm dumb. I might turn red. I'd feel ashamed.”
2. Trying out for a sports team “I won't get chosen,” thought Joe. “You don't belong!” the kids might scream. “I'd feel terrible.”
3. Making the effort to be social and friendly “The kids might holler, ‘Go away!'” thought Jane. “I'd feel weird and want to cry.”

Anxious children know the awful experience of thoughts and feelings running wild. For them, it's like a tsunami. They try to avoid such danger at all cost.

That's why they worry and fret about the worst things that might happen. They might cry, throw temper tantrums, and refuse to take risks. This is how their worry protects them from harm. It stops them from trying, making mistakes, and being embarrassed. It keeps them safe from failing and feeling foolish.

But kids don't realize that anxiety also imprisons them with their negative thoughts and fearful feelings. It also prevents them from experiencing the joys of accomplishment.

11 Simple Steps for Overcoming Childhood Anxieties

1. Ask her to draw a picture of her fears.

Goal: To put her fears on paper and help her see them clearly.

2. Probe by asking, “What does your picture mean to you?” Listen well.

Goal:To help her verbalize her fears and for you to understand them.

3. Look at the picture again and ask, “What else does it mean?” Ask this several times until she's completely finished.

Goal: To pull out all her thoughts and examine them.

4. Ask her to draw what she would like to feel. Ask the same questions repeatedly. “What does this picture mean to you? Is there more?”

Goal: To help her see solutions and to sense the new feelings.

5. Say, “Brainstorm what you could to do to make the good picture come true.” Get her answers first because they're probably the best. Then offer some suggestions.

Goal: To help her verbalize how to face her fears and conquer them.

6. Request that she write down 3 small steps she'd like to try first. (Make sure they're little steps.)

Goal: To break down big solutions into bite-size pieces that she can handle.

7. Ask her to pick one to practice.

Goal: To help her make a commitment to take action.

8. Tell her, “I believe in you. Let me know the results.”

Goal: To encourage her to take action and to let her know you'll be waiting to hear the outcome.

9. Listen well when she tells you what happened.

Goal: To prove you really care and that she has your full attention.

10. Praise her efforts and ask her what she'd like to try next.

Goal: To boost her belief in herself and to inspire her to keep on growing.

11. Ask her to come up with a success motto to overcome her fears like:

“Hey girl, give it a whirl!”

“Oh man, I know I can.”

“My smile will show I'm friendly to know.”

Ask her to post it by her bedside to say before she falls asleep.

Goal: To use positive self-talk that emboldens her to strive for positive outcomes.

See how these 11 easy steps can help the child visualize a better outcome for giving a book report, or getting ready for sports' try outs, or smiling at kids as her first small step toward making friends?

Rather than telling her what to do she'd come up with her own answers. As the parent, you'd become her gentle guide and caring confidant. All it takes is your love, willingness to listen, and time. In return you'd be cherished as a loving parent and be rewarded with an unbeatable close-knit bond.

Discuss This Character Building Poem with Your Child:

Tiny Steps

“I will not give my book report!
The kids will laugh and tease and snort.”
Jack laid his head upon his desk
And fear beat strong within his chest.

“I will not try to make the team!”
“You don't belong!” the kids might scream.
Joe turned away and headed home.
“I'll feel better when I'm alone.”

“I will not make a friend today!”
The kids might holler, “Go away!”
Jane felt fear in every bone.
No one heard her painful moan.

Fear gripped each child much too tight.
They all gave up without a fight.
“You cannot win unless you risk,”
Declared their teacher, Mrs. Fisk.

“Don't let worry call the shots,
Take a risk. Untie the knots.
Choose tiny steps and you will see,
The joy of trying sets you free.”

Jack took the risk and got an “A.”
Joe made the team and saved the day.
Jane smiled, laughed, and shared a toy.
They all took risks and felt the joy.


For more parenting tips and tools, pick up 33 Family Meetings Kids Love to help your children speak up and grow with confidence.

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