Are you curious about Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) for your child?
As parents, watching your child struggle with anxiety can be heart-wrenching. You want to help, but it's not always clear how. Anxiety in children is more than just a phase; it's an overwhelming experience that can affect their daily lives, academic performance, and overall well-being.
Fortunately, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) offers hope, providing a structured approach to help children understand and manage their anxiety. Let's take a closer look at what a therapist does during CBT sessions with your child and how you can support this process at home.
Understanding Anxiety in Children
Unlike adults, children may not be able to articulate their feelings of anxiety clearly. Look for changes in behaviour, such as clinginess, irritability, sleep disturbances, or a sudden drop in school performance. Physical symptoms like stomachaches and headaches are also common indicators of anxiety in children. As a parent, your role is to spot these signs and seek professional help when needed.
Inside a CBT Session: Techniques Your Child’s Therapist May Use
Understanding and Naming Emotions
CBT sessions often start with the basics – helping your child recognise and name what they're feeling. Therapists use engaging tools like emotion cards or stories that help children put a name to their emotions, making them less intimidating.
Therapists guide children to identify the thoughts that spiral into anxiety. For instance, if your child fears the dark, they might harbor the thought that it's not safe. The therapist will gently challenge this by discussing what 'safe' means and whether darkness changes that.
CBT therapists teach children how to relax their bodies and minds. Through games and storytelling, your child might learn deep breathing to "blow away fears" or muscle relaxation as "turning off the body's worry switches."
Anxiety often comes from a sense of helplessness. Therapists work with children to develop step-by-step plans for their worries. If a child dreads social situations, they might brainstorm friendly greetings or topics to talk about.
Practice Through Role-Play
In the safety of the therapy room, children can rehearse facing their fears. Role-playing can help your child practice asking a teacher for help or joining in a game with peers, building confidence in a low-stress environment.
Your child's therapist may use lots of encouragement and sometimes even games or stickers as rewards for facing fears. This reinforcement builds a positive association with coping skills.
Therapists introduce children to their fears gradually, in a process called exposure therapy. They might start by talking about the fear, then looking at pictures, and eventually facing the fear in real life, each step taken at the child's pace.
How You Can Support Your Child's CBT Journey
- Stay Informed: Understand what's happening in your child's therapy sessions so you can reinforce the lessons at home.
- Model Calm Behaviour: Show your child how you manage stress and anxiety with a calm and positive outlook.
- Listen and Validate: Give your child space to talk about their fears without judgment and acknowledge their feelings as valid.
- Celebrate Small Steps: Every small victory is worth celebrating. Encourage your child for each effort they make.
- Consistency Matters: Reinforce the skills your child learns in therapy by encouraging regular practice at home.
- Collaborate with the Therapist: Stay in touch with your child’s therapist to keep track of their progress and get advice on how to handle challenges.
Therapists equipped with CBT tools can help your child with anxiety. As a parent, your support and understanding is crucial. By working together with your child’s therapist, you can help your child build the resilience they need to navigate life's ups and downs. Remember, the aim isn't to shield them from anxiety but to give them the strength to face it with confidence. Our Child Psychologists can help you and your family on this journey. Get in touch today.