Helping Your Child with Anxiety
Tips from Parents

Here are some words of wisdom from other parents who have a child with anxiety

Afraid of “uncomfortable” topics? Play Go Fish!
 
Many children with anxiety fear specific things, so much so that they are unable to even say the word that reminds them of those things!


 
One such little girl was terrified at the thought of death. She was afraid that her family members would die, her dog, and it began to spread to worrying if she saw a dead bug or heard the word dead on TV or in a movie, or book. She had trouble reading in school if the book involved anyone dead or recently passed (which, more than you might think, comes up quite often!). She even got scared when a scene in the muppet movie had an evil character say, “I’ll bury you!” to the muppets. She couldn’t say the word dead, and instead chose to say “NA” which stood for “Not Alive,” which eventually became just “N.” One step in helping her was to explain that the bully was wanting to get her attention and we didn’t need to give it attention. We also wanted her to get “bored” of the words that were causing her anxiety; namely, the words related to “Dead” or “Dying.”

To help her get “bored” of the words and thoughts, her mom created a “Go Fish” game, with cards with “Fear” words and phrases that would have to be said to win. 
 

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The first set of cards had the following words:


 
  • Dead Batteries

  • Dead End

  • Hair Dye

  • Tie-dyed Shirt

  • The Grateful Dead 

  • Die (singular of dice)


     
Then they moved on to "expressions" starting at the top of the list, then gradually added the more unpleasant expressions toward the bottom of the list:


 
  • Dead Wrong

  • Killer Smile

  • Kill Them With Kindness

  • Kill The Lights

  • Dead Weight

  • Play Dead

  • It’s a Matter of Life or Death

  • Do or Die Situation

  • What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stronger

  • Cross My Heart And Hope To Die

  • You're Killing Me

  • I'll Bury You

  • It Won't Kill You


     
Then we moved on to things that actually signify death:


 
  • Dead Bugs

  • Dead Fish

  • Cemetery

  • Graves

  • Death

  • Dead


     
 
The girl was able to say the word, see dead bugs, walk in front of churches with cemeteries, and read books and see movies that included death and dying. Mom became great at helping her to identify the “bully” trying to get her attention whenever questions or reassurance about “death” came up. They kept the conversations light and quick, while never lying or making up false promises. 

Thanks to this creative and committed mom, and to the brave little girl, for contributing their story, and their “Go Fish!” Game.