Anxiety in children is a very common problem and it can have a big impact on kids’ lives. It can make school, friendships, family life and extracurricular activities difficult. The good news is that there are ways to help manage anxiety. The first step is often to talk to your child’s doctor or mental health professional.
If your child has a general fear or worry that isn’t severe enough to be considered a phobia, it can usually be addressed with simple explanations and reassurance. If your child has a specific phobia, it may require more treatment and therapy.
Some treatments have been scientifically proven to help kids overcome their fears. Among them, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is very effective. This type of therapy teaches children to replace negative thoughts and behaviors with positive ones. It also teaches them to recognize and control their anxious feelings.
A key part of CBT is called exposure therapy. This involves gradually exposing kids to the things that scare them. It’s very important to do this in a safe, age-appropriate way. Kids who are exposed to their fears over time will learn that they don’t have to be afraid and their fears will fade.
Other types of treatment for a specific phobia include taking antidepressant medication and practicing relaxation techniques. It’s important to note that not all medications work for every child, and some can have side effects.
Keeping your child active and engaged with friends is an important part of treating their anxiety. Getting enough sleep is another key part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle and reducing anxiety. Having a good diet and staying hydrated will also help.
It’s also important to avoid over-scheduling your child. Over-scheduling can contribute to stress and make kids more worried. It’s also important to teach your child self-care and how to set boundaries for themselves.
Some parents and teachers find it helpful to talk with kids about their anxieties. It’s a fine line to walk, however, because you don’t want to reinforce their fears by telling them they shouldn’t be afraid. Instead, it’s important to listen to their concerns and empathize with their feelings. It’s also important to help them come up with a plan to face their fears, like telling them they can slowly expose themselves to their fears by going to their friends’ houses or volunteering at a local event.
Some children benefit from breathing exercises, such as counting to five when they breathe in and out. Others find it soothing to hold a parent’s hand or cuddle. Many kids find that having a calm visual reminder, such as a memento from a relaxing place or activity, helps them feel more grounded. For example, a photo of their favourite pet, the beach, a garden or a picture of a tree, can remind them to relax. For some, writing in a journal or doing a colouring-in activity can also be very calming. Finally, it’s important to be a role model and talk openly about your own struggles with anxiety.