All kids get stressed from time to time. They may have butterflies on the first day of school, or they may worry about being left out on the playground. Most kids will complain, perhaps get upset, and ultimately move on. But for the one in five children in the United States who suffer from an anxiety disorder, it can be a major challenge to manage their worries.
If you are a parent or caregiver to a child who tends to worry or exhibit anxiety, your first instinct is to try to quell his or her fears. Although it will be comforting to your child in the moment, it may not necessarily make the fears or worries disappear. Here are some tips to help your child address his or her anxiety.
- Set aside worry time: You can make time to sit with your child and listen to any worries they may have. This can be a special time for you and your child to talk, so try to limit interruptions. If they bring up things that they are worried about throughout the day, you can tell to wait and bring it up during worry time. It may help your child contain and refocus his or her thoughts.
- Talk back to your worries: Talking back to a worry can be a very helpful skill. Teach your child that worries are like a bully, giving you a hard time. Bullies back down when someone stands up to them, and so do worries. Standing up to their worries will empower your child and weaken the intensity of the fear. For example, have your child tell his or her worry, “leave me alone,” “go away,” or “I don’t believe you.”
- Practice relaxation: Relaxation and meditation are great ways to ease your child’s concerns. You can help him or her practice relaxation exercises, and do it together. Find a quiet place to sit with your child and take deep breaths to slow down his or her mind. If you are looking to practice a meditation together, there are apps like Headspace that are geared towards all different ages. You can also look up meditations on YouTube.
These are just a few suggestions to help your child if you suspect that he or she is anxious. If you feel that anxiety is interfering with his or her daily life, it can be beneficial to talk with the school counselor or contact a therapist for additional support. You can start on right path now, providing your child with helpful skills that can be used for many years to come.