It’s that time of year again.
Yep. The six-month dental cleaning.
Most kids love the fun sunglasses and the flavored toothpaste, but not yours. Your child dreads their next appointment the second they leave the office.
For months you have to field questions like, “Is it going to hurt?” or “Will they use that sharp thing again?” You also avoid any TV shows or books that even come close to talking about the dentist.
Whether it is fear of the dentist or anxiety about other situations, you hope you child is just going through a phase — one that will pass soon. In the meantime, here are five ways to support your worried child:
5 Ways to Support Your Worried Child
1. Teach Calm
While it seems like a simple task, most kids need to learn how to take a deep breath. Practice deep breathing using visuals like pinwheels, bubbles, and candles. Focus on getting the breath low in their belly and breathing slowly in and out.
2. Talk About It
Fears are hard to face at first, but getting them out in the open makes them less scary. Instead of dancing around the worry, empathize with and talk about the struggle: “I know going to the dentist can seem scary, and I am right here with you.”
3. Give them the Words
Worry can speak loudly to your child, so empower them to talk back to their fears using an assertive voice. Pretend the worry is an annoying bug: “Get away Mr. WorryWart!” Or a bully on the playground: “I don’t have to listen to you!”
4. Tell a New Story
Help your child see a different ending using storytelling. Start the story with your child and their worry, then when you get to the part where they usually struggle, change the ending to show them conquering their fear! Read the story often.
5. Draw a Confident Picture
Art can provide a powerful visual for your child. They can draw how big their worry feels vs. how big it actually is, or they can draw a picture of their fear, and then draw them overcoming it, facing it, or making it through with flying colors.
Armed with these strategies, you and your child can practice new skills and prepare for their next encounter with their fear.
Before you know it, they will march into that dentist’s office and request the strawberry flavored toothpaste without missing a beat.
And you can sit back and smile.
Most childhood worries come and go with time and maturity. If you are concerned that your child’s worry is getting too big, if it is interfering in their appetite, sleep, or daily activities, or if you feel unsure how to best help them, seek help from a mental health professional.
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Nicole Schwarz is a mom to 3 young girls, a Parent Coach with a License in Marriage and Family Therapy, and author of Positive Parenting for Imperfect Families. Find positive parenting tips and learn more about Parent Coaching on her blog, Imperfect Families.this easy step-by-step tutorial on how start a blog (no tech knowledge required).