Your sweet and usually happy child hasn’t been acting like themselves lately.
They’ve been crying a lot and getting upset or angry more frequently.
They seem to be on edge and restless. Their eating and sleeping habits are changing.
You’re noticing signs of them being more clingy and having difficulty concentrating in class or when given an activity at home.
Your child has been showing signs of anxiety lately, and you’re not quite sure what to do about it.
Here are four soothing ways to help your child with anxiety.
1. Practice Deep Breathing
A lot of anxiety stems from worrying about situations from the past or from events that haven’t even occurred yet in the future. Practicing deep breathing is a great way to help keep your child grounded in the present moment.
Encourage your child to control their breathing. Practice inhaling through your nose and exhaling from your mouth. You can help your child picture a hot item of food like a pizza, macaroni & cheese, or a pizza. Tell them to picture their favorite item of food in their head. Next, have them smell the item of food by inhaling the scent through their nose. After they inhale, have them cool off the item of food they’re picturing by blowing it out of their mouth.
2. Validate Their Thoughts and Feelings
It can be easy to try to dismiss your child’s negative thoughts and feelings without even realizing it. Have you ever told your child that something isn’t a big deal or not to worry about something? These types of interactions can actually dismiss your child’s thoughts and feelings and make them feel like their thoughts and feelings are wrong. Try to let your child know that you understand or that you might feel the same way. After you validate their feelings, you can express your confidence in them. Instead of telling them they shouldn’t feel a certain way, make sure you let them know it’s okay to feel that way and they will and can get through it.
3. Just Move
Exercise or moving your body is a great way to help cope with anxiety. You don’t have to bring your child to a gym for hours on end for this approach to work either. Try to channel their anxious thoughts and energy into moving their body instead of focusing on what they’re worried about. Go for a walk with them around your neighborhood, play a game with them outside, or give them a list of chores or housework that they can accomplish.
4. Shift Their Focus
A lot of your child’s anxiety may stem from things they actually have no control over. Try to shift their focus onto something else. If your child is worried about an upcoming test, help them study for it. If they may be concerned about a homework assignment, carve some time in your day to help them sit down, focus on the task at hand, and complete it together. Maybe they want to join a team or partake in an extracurricular activity at school. If they’re anxious about not being good enough or not making the team, practice with them after school.
Everyone experiences anxiety from time to time, even children. If you notice signs of anxiety in your child and it’s not going away after some time, even with some coping techniques, it may be time to reach out for additional support. Get your child the help they need and deserve. A licensed and trained mental health professional might be exactly what you and your child need to help them cope with their anxiety.
About the author(s)
Karen is the founder and Clinical Director of Cohesive Therapy NYC. She earned a Masters in Social Work from New York University and has extensive training in Hypnosis, Anxiety, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Brainspotting, and DGBI. She is a member of the Institute of Certified Anxiety Treatment Professionals, The Rome Foundation, the National Association of Social Workers, The Crohn's and Colitis Foundation, and the American Social of Clinical Hypnosis.