Its World Mental Health Day and author of the forthcoming There’s an Elephant in my Wardrobe, Yejide Kilanko, has some advice for parents about managing a child with anxiety.
Read the letter below.
The world we live in can be alarming at times. Children are not exempt from the fear and anxiety many adults experience on a daily basis. If you’re wondering how to help your child living with anxiety, I offer the following tips as a helpful starting point.
Put on your oxygen mask first. You can’t help your child if you’re not coping well. As a parent, I know children do as we do and not as we say. When you model self-care, your child will be more open to accepting help from you or a mental health professional.
Listen to understand your child’s fears. Many of us struggle between making a living and raising families. Life is busy and as a result we are prone to doing too much shushing, dismissing and correcting. We need to see and hear our children. In particular, children living with anxiety need to know you’re listening because their inner world is often more chaos than calm.
Help your child understand that when anxiety impacts their functioning, they can tolerate it. I use the word tolerate because for some children, their anxiety is not situational, and even knowing their triggers and planning for them may not help. As much as you can, build rest and laughter into your family’s day. Help your child discover the best soothing strategies for them.
Do not be afraid to make mistakes. Children need to see us make mistakes so they can learn from us how to handle them.
Many days, I’ve wished my children came with manuals. But since they don’t, we as parents must figure out how to help in ways children find meaningful.
I decided to write There Is An Elephant In My Wardrobe because it’s crucial for us to talk to the children in our lives about their mental health. I also chose to write this story because I’ve struggled with anxiety for as long as I can remember. As a child, it would have made a world of difference if I had read about a little girl like me.
I hope your child enjoys reading about Adun and the Elephant.
All the best on your parenting journey,