Anxiety is a normal and common emotion for children to experience. But sometimes the anxiety can get out of control and become overwhelming. When this happens, it’s important to free your child from the cycle of stress and anxiety so that they can function normally and feel good.
A good way to help your child overcome anxiety is to make it a priority to teach them coping skills that they can use in different situations. These coping skills can be as simple as breathing or as complex as learning how to use their imaginations.
Give your child a hug–A hug is a great calming and soothing technique for children with anxiety. Physical touch releases oxytocin, a hormone that increases feelings of love and comfort. It also reduces the stress hormone cortisol in the bloodstream and helps to ease muscle tension.
Break overwhelming or anxiety-inducing tasks into smaller steps–Research has shown that when children are able to desensitize themselves to a particular fear through gradual exposure, their feelings of panic and fear become less intense in the future. This is a process called “graded exposure.”
Talk to your child about the situation that makes them anxious–Children with anxiety often believe that they are the only ones who have ever felt worried or stressed in a certain situation. By talking about their feelings with friends, family or teachers, they will learn that many others also have these concerns.
Acknowledge your child’s feelings–Parents often want to turn a blind eye to a child’s fearful thoughts or behavior because it seems so wrong. But ignoring the negative internal monologues that lead to anxiety can actually increase your child’s levels of stress.
Restructure that monologue into a positive one–Teach your child to replace negative internal thoughts with positive statements. This is a powerful tool because it gives your child a sense of power over their emotions.
Know that this too shall pass–Stress and anxiety last for a short period of time, and they will soon fade away. Recognizing this is an important part of reducing your child’s anxiety, as it can help them to let go of the fear that they are feeling forever.
Put your child’s worries in a mental worry box–Help your child to imagine a box where she can place her worries. Every day, when she opens the box, she and you can talk about her fears.
Set aside worry time–Research shows that taking 15 minutes of ‘worry time’ each day can help your child manage their fears. You can schedule a time for this, and your child can even choose which worries she wants to discuss.
Tell your child that you’re here to support them–Research has shown that when you reassure your child that you’ll be there for them when they feel anxious, they’re more likely to face their fears in the future. This reassuring message is especially helpful when your child is very young and their anxiety is just beginning to develop.