Seeking Too Much: Why Constantly Reassuring Your Children Isn’t Always Good

Consider the following story as it relates to this week’s topic.

I’ve noticed over the past year or so that Chelsea has been asking me more and more of the same types of questions. These can range from, “Will you definitely be picking me up from soccer practice after school?”, to “Are you sure that the vegetables in the salad aren’t spoiled?” I usually answer these with a simple and reassuring “yes” to quell her concerns, but it’s getting to the point that she’s needing reassurance for almost everything and is sometimes asking me the same thing but in different ways. Is there any way I can simply ease her away from this anxiousness and make her understand that things will be okay without me explicitly saying so?

Our kids are always looking to us for information and reassurance about the goings-on in the world. It’s typical, and as parents, we can’t help but protect our sons and daughters from bad feelings. Giving them these reassurances can help them understand that the situations and concerns that bring up these feelings aren’t dangerous and that they can even overcome them in an effective way through what they say or do. However, there are times when some children will ask for continuous reassurance for certain situations, and if you’re constantly saying “yes” to ease their fears, this can be an unhelpful way of helping them cope.

In this week’s piece, we’ll be going over how your reactions to these behaviors may not be what your child needs.

At Rice Psychology Group, we know that concerns in the world can worry your child. If you’re unsure of how to go about handling this, then our psychologists in Tampa will be more than happy to help you.

 

Reassurance Seeking

Reassurance can be a temporary solution to a long-term concern for a child. Click To Tweet

If your child is feeling anxious about something, then they’ll often turn to you to feel better, and why not? You’re their parent! One of the most common ways that children do this is through “reassurance seeking”. This involves them asking you many, many questions or even the same ones again and again to hear you say that everything will indeed be fine. You might be wondering what the harm in that is. Here are a few pointers:

  • For parents, constantly reassuring a child can be exhausting, and worse for them, it can result in their asking for more and more, resulting in an endless loop.
  • Reassurance can be a temporary solution to a long-term concern for a child. It only alieves the anxiety your child is feeling for the moment, and not permanently, and often inadvertently reinforces the behavior because it brings temporary relief.
  • Ironically, reassuring a child can confirm their fears that a danger actually exists. They aren’t aware that their anxiety is what’s causing their emotions.

A Potential Solution

To be blunt, the best way to limit or end your child’s reassurance seeking is to stop telling them what they want to hear. They want to be reassured that things will be fine and that they shouldn’t have anything to worry about. By doing the opposite, your child can learn to deal with their anxiety on their own, giving them a sense of independence and confidence.

Ironically, reassuring a child can confirm their fears that a danger actually exists. Click To Tweet

We know that this is easier said than done. After all, how can you tell your child that things won’t be fine and that they’ll have to overcome their worries on their own? For many moms and dads, it might seem cruel to not reassure their kids that things will be okay and may even feel that it’s behaviorally-damaging. But remember, if you want for your son or daughter to overcome their anxiety, they need to learn more effective ways of coping. Of course, there are plenty of ways that reassurance denial can be successfully done without it being “mean”.

 

3 Helpful Ways

The first thing you’ll need to do is identify which behaviors to change. For example, are your child’s concerns more focused on life at home or at school? Second, you’ll need to fill your family in on the big change. If you’re going to stop giving reassurance to your child, then your spouse and other children will all need to know this and agree to do the same. This is to prevent your child from going to them for reassurance if they won’t be getting it from you.

Remember to praise your child if they’ve stopped seeking reassurance. Click To Tweet

Third, sit down with your child and explain to them what the plan is and why it’s being done. Read a bit about how anxiety works before implementing this so that you can explain it to your child in a simple way. For example, explain that together you’re going to team up to talk back to anxiety, so the worries can’t boss your child around anymore. Tell them that you know that anxiety lies to kids and adults and tells them that bad things are likely to happen even when it’s not true. So together, you won’t let anxiety get away with it. Most importantly, explain that it’s being done because you love him/her and aren’t doing it to be mean.

A Few Examples

Now that the plan is about to go underway, how will you respond to your child’s reassurance seeking? Here are a few helpful examples:

  • “Will I pass my test next week?” – If your child is always seeking reassurance for anxiety brought on by tests at school and fears he or she might fail, you can respond with something like, “Hmm, I wonder what would happen if you did fail one test”, or, “I just saw you quiz yourself and get most of the answers correct. I wonder if your worries are making you feel unprepared. How can we talk back to them?”
  • “Are you sure you will you be at the practice field to pick me up from soccer?” – One helpful way to answer this is by saying, “You already know the answer to that one. It’s the same answer I give you each time you ask. So, to be helpful to you, I’m going to let you answer it yourself.” The trick with this one is to use a genuine tone and not a sarcastic one. “You don’t have to ask. If I won’t be able to, then your aunt will. You won’t be left there alone.”
  • “Will I get the job that I applied for yesterday?” – For situations out of their control, it may be easier to deny reassurance. You can answer a question like this one with, “I don’t know. I guess you’ll just have to wait and see.”

Remember to praise your child if they’ve stopped seeking reassurance. A simple, “You’re doing so well handling this one your own!”, will surely encourage him/her to handle things on their own terms. And don’t forget to be consistent with your plan, otherwise your child may go back to their old ways.

Peace of Mind with Us

For a child seeking peace of mind for any concern in the world, it sometimes takes more than a parent’s reassurance. It can be even more difficult if you need some help in getting rid of this problem in your son or daughter. Our licensed psychologists in Tampa can sit down with you and your family to form a plan to help your child overcome their anxiety. Contact us today to learn more about what we can do for you.

About Rice Psychology

Rice Psychology Group is home to a team of psychologists who work tirelessly to help adults, adolescents and children deal with their issues. Whether you’re currently dealing with depression, going through a divorce or fighting an issue you just can’t understand, know that our Tampa psychologists are here to help.

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