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Caring for a Child with Anxiety: Avoiding Caregiver Burnout

By Brandy Browne

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, one in eight children is diagnosed with an anxiety disorder (Boyle, 2016, p 520). Anxiety affects many aspects of children’s lives. It will appear in their thought processes, causing them to believe they are in constant danger or under a constant threat. Anxiety manifests itself in physical symptoms, such as a persistent headache or tummy ache. Finally, anxiety presents itself in children’s behaviors. They may rock, fidget, cry, shake, or shut down completely (Rapee et al., 2008, p 27-28). Having fears is a normal and healthy part of your child’s development. But when it comes to the point that those fears interfere with daily living, it is very easy for caregivers to become burned out.

My daughter has panic attacks. Some weeks, we will skate through effortlessly, with no tears, shaking, curling up into the fetal position. Other weeks, attack after attack, rock her little body, and I am drained to my core. So, as caregivers to these little people who battle anxiety, how do we avoid burnout so that we can continue to give them the support that they need?

To begin with, Rapee et al. (2008) recommend that we stop taking full ownership of our children’s anxiety by attempting to remove all barriers that might trigger anxious feelings in them. “Children can only learn that situations are not dangerous, and that they can cope, if they are forced to experience the situation” (Rapee et. al, 2008, p 116).

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