by Jessica Fox, LCPC
had a plan for my daughter before she was even a twinkle in my eye. Not the kind of plan that many parents
have for their children, like to be a doctor, a lawyer, or the first female
President of the United States of America! No, my plan
was to raise the least anxious child I could possibly imagine. I wanted her to have confidence
instilled in her at an early age. A plan that maybe only a psychotherapist would
set out as the number one goal, but a plan nonetheless.
I believe that confidence, especially
the kind of confidence used to tackle challenges, is a primary ingredient for
coping with anxiety. As a
psychotherapist with a younger clientele, I see anxiety manifest itself in young
children and through adolescence. Young children usually exhibit anxiety in psychosomatic forms, like a
bad stomachache or by developing a "nervous habit." Adolescents are better equipped to
express their anxiety verbally, but can experience it at a high volume and
In order to carry out
my plan for my baby, I needed to take the skills I teach my clients into
consideration and think about how to apply that in an age-appropriate manner to my infant (now a toddler). I can happily say
that I have a confident, adventurous and calm toddler.
How much of that I can contribute to
genetics, I am not sure. However,
a person's environment is what can bring out natural attributes, so it is
imperative that we consider nurture in this equation. Here is a list of things to consider when trying
to raise a confident person with low anxiety starting from birth:
1. Model the ability to cope with
"emotion" language starting from day one.
3. Consider a strong
attachment with your newborn but allow him/her to sleep in his/her own space
Provide a safe environment for your child to explore without sacrificing your own sanity!
5. Encourage your baby to do things on her own during play without
interfering the moment it gets tough for them. Let your baby "sit through" her own frustration; this is a critical opportunity to develop future coping skills. Alternatively, help only to the point where she
can then take over.
For example, my daughter used to get so frustrated when she
couldn't put a puzzle piece in correctly and would end up clenching her fists
and yelling. I simply said in as calm a voice as I could muster,
"I can see you are
frustrated, it's ok, try again.
Or, we can try another time." It didn't take long for her to pull
herself together and try again.
6. Show your baby/toddler
that you have faith in them. If
you do things for your child that they can developmentally capable of themselves,
then you are hindering natural development. So, even if your child spills
milk on the floor, allow her to attempt to hold a cup without your help. A little spilled milk never hurt
7. Be careful what you say. I often hear older generations in my
family say things to my daughter like, "You are GOING to break your
neck!" if they see me allow her to climb on something that they view as
dangerous. Of course I am right there
to spot her and monitor her safety.
I would say something a little less definitive, like "Be careful,
watch your step." Telling a
child something so definitive can be dangerous, because as kids, they think we
know EVERYTHING, so talking in extremes can cause a child unnecessary
8. After the newborn phase is over, teach
your child to cope with stressors in various healthy ways, like singing, stretching,
reading or hugging. Try to avoid
doing whatever will make them happy in the moment like putting on the TV or
giving them a cookie to stop crying.
9. If you have anxiety yourself, consider talking to a
therapist to find out ways to reduce it for your and your family's sake.