Does your child tend to worry, over-think and/or show anxiety? If so, your first instinct might be to try to calm their fears by saying things like “Oh, that’s not something you have to worry about” or “That isn’t going to happen.” Although this technique might initially feel comforting to your child, it may not necessarily make their fears or worries disappear. Here are some helpful tips to guide your child and help them address their anxiety.
Set aside dedicated “Worry Time” each day: This may sound counterintuitive, but it can help. You can sit with your child and ask him or her to share worries with you. This can be a special time for you and your child to talk, so it is helpful to limit interruptions. If your child is having worry thoughts outside of “Worry Time,” you can gently encourage him or her to store the thoughts away until the dedicated time arrives. Putting a time limit (set your phone timer and keep it short) can provide containment for your child – he or she will know that there is space and time to share worries and receive support.
Be the Boss of your worries: Don’t allow worries to be the boss of you. Talking back to a worry can be a very helpful skill. Teach your child that worries are like a bully that is giving him or her a hard time. Bullies tend to back down when confronted, and so do worries! When your child stands up to his or her worry, it can promote a feeling of empowerment as well as weaken the intensity of the thought. Coach your child to say something out loud and with conviction such as “GO AWAY WORRY!” or “YOU ARE NOT WELCOME IN MY BRAIN AND I AM NOT LISTENING TO YOU!”
Practice relaxation: Simple relaxation techniques can calm the emotional and physical effects of worry by reducing its effect on the sympathetic nervous system. When a person worries, it releases stress hormones into the body – originally designed for the much needed “fight or flight” response. However stress hormones can have significant negative effects on a person’s mind and body – especially a young one. Several times a day, practice simple breathing exercises such as slow breath in to count of four and slow breath out to count of four. Also practice this exercise before and during a potentially worrisome situation. This will slow down both of your minds and produce a centered and calm feeling.
These are just a few suggestions to help your anxious child. If you feel that his or her anxiety is interfering with daily functioning, it can be beneficial to talk with the schoolcounselor or contact a therapist for additional support. You are on the right path to providing your child with helpful skills that will be useful for many years to come!