SF Counseling Center

Anxiety, Safety and Structure

Want to help your child grow up with less anxiety?  A couple of simple steps can go a very long way.  Children need to know they are safe.  They thrive on consistency and predictability.  Look up an episode of Mr. Rogers online.  What did he do?  He always started his show in the same manner.  He had an opening ritual (changing his shoes and sweater).  Then he told you what he was going to do.  Then he did it.  At the end of the show, he had his closing ritual.

“How does that apply to me?”  Well,  you can provide as much consistency and predictability as possible for your child.  That does not mean you have to change your shoes or sweater before breakfast – but having a routine is a good thing and can go a long way.

Also, borrow from preschools.  In preschools, after breakfast, everyone has ‘circle time.’  The teacher engages the kids in discussing what day it is, what may be special about today (or perhaps what is coming up tomorrow), and then what they are going to do that day.  So, for example, at breakfast (or while getting ready, or while traveling to school) you could remind your child, “Today is Monday.  Remember, I work later today so Aunt Jane will pick you up after school.”  Just a simple reminder can help things go smoother and help your child have a better sense of what will happen later in the day.  By providing this information, the world becomes a little more predictable (you won’t be there, your child should expect Aunt Jane). Better yet, also have a once a week meeting -say Sunday evening – to go over the week’s events.  Then each day, do the ‘circle time’ type of quick update.

Over time, these bits of predictability create an overall sense of stability and become part of a psychological structure which includes a sense of order, predictability and stability.  Order and predictability help prevent undue anxiety.  Eventually, your child can learn to generate those qualities for him/her self.