Parenting a child with anxiety can be incredibly challenging. When seeing your child struggling,
it is easy to want to jump in and help them. Unfortunately, some of the things parents do to help,
can actually be maintaining their children’s anxiety.

Here are some of the key parenting traps we can fall into when parenting a child with anxiety:

1. Giving too much reassurance

Often children with anxiety ask lots of questions to find out if a situation is okay. For
example, ‘Is it definitely a sports day?’, ‘What if my teacher is sick?’. A natural reaction is
to answer these questions. However, when we answer questions all the time, children
become reliant on parents and only feel safe in situations where parents are around to
provide reassurance.

2. Jumping in too soon

When watching your child struggle or feel anxious, it is understandable you will want
to jump in and solve the problem for them. However, jumping in to solve problems for
your child all the time actually prevents them from developing important skills, and can
become a form of avoidance. Additionally, when parents jump in, the child can think that
the situation is not safe or that they cannot cope on their own, which increases anxiety
and reduces independence.

3. Allowing avoidance

Avoidance is one of the key maintaining factors in anxiety. Often parents allow
avoidance by modifying situations for their children, like speaking for them, allowing
them to skip school or social events etc. Whilst avoiding these things in the short term
reduces anxiety, in the long term, when children avoid situations, they miss out on the
opportunity to face their fears, learn, and overcome anxiety.

4. Being ‘too tough’

Being too tough, or telling your child to toughen up, can lead to children being pushed
too hard too fast. Anxiety is hard. Children need time, and graudal, supported exposure,
to overcome their fears. Also, ignoring your child’s feeling can result in them feeling
unsupported and misunderstood by you. We want to strike a balance, being fair and
empathetic, whilst also pushing just enough to help children start to face their fears.
If you notice you are falling into some of these parenting traps, it can be a good idea to start
monitoring your own behaviour and noticing the particular situations where you might feel your
own anxiety or stress rising, urging you to reassure, jump in, allow avoidance or just be too

Once you have noticed when you are falling into these traps, you can start replacing some of
your behaviours, with other, more helpful behaviours.

Here are some remedies to help pull you out of common parenting traps:



Giving too much reassurance
- Instead of answering the same question repetitively, encourage child to think about what has been said before. Warmly and non-judgmentally, ask them, ‘What do you think will happen?’ ‘I think we might have chatted about this before, can you think of anything we agreed on last time?’. - If you know your child has some particular situations that trigger them and prompt ‘reassurance seeking’, it might be nice for you to sit down together and plot out the facts on paper once, so they can refer back to it the next time they are in this situation.
Jumping in too soon
- Observe your own anxiety. - Take a step back. Ask yourself, is my child capable of handling this situation? Are other kids their age capable of handling this situation? If so, wait it out.
Allowing avoidance
- Find ways to support your child to face their fears. Draw on other skills, like realistic thinking and breathing techniques to help them gradually expose themselves to feared situations. - Allow natural consequences → when your child is aboding, their are sometimes going to be consequences. For example, if you don’t go to school, you need a medical certificate. Allow your child to deal with the natural consequences, which could include going to the doctors with you and speaking to the doctor in order to get the medical certificate.
Being too tough
- Always stay warm, empathetic and understanding. Your child’s anxiety is a very real, and scary, feeling. - Give constructive feedback, always being sure to note strengths as well as difficulties!
Our team of psychologists offer support to both young people and their parents to help overcome the patterns of anxiety. If you would like to make a booking either call or email our clinic.

Leave a Reply