Tell the Truth
Your ability to be clear and honest about what you and your child are experiencing can go a long way in combating anxiety. Knowledge is power, and honesty about what you and your child observe, think, and feel will give both of you a sense of solidity as you move through the troubled waters of anxiety. Remember, though, to keep the focus on your child and avoid at all costs making him feel responsible for your reactions to the situation.
Being truthful may require tact and some self-restraint. Children with anxiety can demand excessive time and attention, causing frustration and resentment to parents. Though you may need to express your feelings in order to set limits and help your child change her behavior, it is important to avoid shame or blame, because this will only magnify your child's worry and anxiety. Expressing the attitude that “we are all in this together” can help minimize the possibility that your child will internalize blame for her condition or for your frustration.
The classic work on assertiveness, called Stand Up, Speak Out, Talk Back, by Alberti and Emmons is an easy-to-read primer on being assertive. There are many other resources available, including books, Internet resources, classes, and groups, which focus on assertiveness.
When you face the need to share information, such as explaining anxiety or prepping your child for a visit to a doctor or therapist, keep your child's age in mind. Younger children need clear, concrete descriptions, and may respond to a “story” about another child with similar experiences. Older children do well if they are able to ask you questions based on their fears or worries about what is happening to them. You may wish to check a local bookstore for resources specifically geared toward your child's age level. Your doctor or therapist should also be able to help you make sure that your child has the facts he needs, at a level he understands, to combat his anxiety.