Ask the Expert: My child is struggling with anxiety.

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This article is the second in a new series where we ask the parenting experts at Greenville First Steps to weigh in our most pressing parenting issues. Do you have a question that you would love to get an expert opinion on? Email [email protected]

Thank you to Greenville First Steps for sponsoring this article.

My 11-year-old really is struggling with anxiety. Is there anything I can do to help her?

Dear Greenville First Steps,

My 11-year-old really is struggling with anxiety. She doesn’t like to ever be put into new situations or to have schedule changes. She often complains about having the door shut to her room at night or being in the dark. She always struggled with being fearful but has been worse since Covid. Is there anything I can do to help her?

A Worried Dad


Answer: Anxiety is very common in adolescents and it is great you are looking to help your kiddo tackle this head on!

First off it is important to offer her reassurance, especially with new situations and schedule changes. For a child, new activities can be a scary thing. Letting your little one know they are doing a great job, their feelings are normal, and you are very proud of them goes a long way. Let them know their feelings are not a sign of weakness or failure, they are not crazy, and that everything is going to work out. Your positive attitude as a parent will help influence their outlook on any event that is anxiety provoking to them. Another key to overcoming anxiety is to set small goals. Many small goals can add up to larger success, so setting small goals can decrease anxiety and increase their achievements. Concurring situations is like driving a car in the fog, you can only see a few feet in front of you and have to proceed slowly, but with care it’s enough to make it all the way home. In regards to your daughters issues with her door, at night shut the door just slightly, and every few day shut it a little more in small increments, eventually your 11 year old will conquer her fear.

There are also some lifestyle modifications you can make to help manage and decrease anxiety. Daily physical exercise including walking, tennis, aerobics, and bicycling, can all be helpful to increase natural endorphins making your kiddo feel calm and more relaxed when a stressful situation may emerge. Trying meditation, yoga, breathing retraining or tai chi can also offer benefits with reducing fear and anxiety.

Another great option is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), where your child will meet with a psychologist who is a specialist in teaching coping skills and conflict resolution. CBT is one of the most effective therapies available! Practicing this with a licensed psychologist can help increase self-confidence, self-control, and emotional growth. They also can teach how to redirect energy and creativity.

For more information on this topic you are always welcomed to visit your friendly neighborhood family doctor. We are all trained and eager to help!

Want more information about struggling with anxiety? Here are some great resources:

Here are some great resources for establishing routines and family time:

**These recommendations are broadly applied to anxiety in adolescents and are not individualized to any one person.  For parents that have concerns about their children’s anxiety they should be evaluated by the physician for further guidance.

Would you benefit from more parenting help? Be sure to check out Greenville Parents for a list of free parenting classes that you can sign up for today!

About the Author
Dr. Doug Shapiro is a Family Medicine resident physician at Prisma Health in Greenville, SC. He enjoys hiking, nature, spending time with family and friends. On the weekend you can find him walking the swamp rabbit trail with his wife Lauren and their two dogs. His medical interests include family medicine, lifestyle medicine, LGBTQ, and mental health.

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