It’s estimated that around 5.6 million children have anxiety, with many of them not being diagnosed. The causes of anxiety in children can stem from a variety of factors, including genetics, family environment, school stress, and life changes.
Fortunately, there are many things parents and guardians can do to help their children with anxiety. In addition to a certificate in child development behavior and mental health, there are other ways to help children with anxiety to help improve their overall well-being.
Encourage Open Communication
Creating an environment where your child feels comfortable talking to you about their feelings and concerns can help them manage their anxiety. Encourage them to share how they feel and be a supportive, non-judgmental listener. Reassure your child that it’s okay to express their feelings and explain that it is normal for everyone to experience anxiety and worry.
Teach Coping Strategies
Help your child learn effective and healthy coping strategies, such as deep breathing exercises, mindfulness meditation, positive self-talk, and journaling. These activities can help them feel centered and reduce the physical symptoms associated with anxiety. You may want to consider enlisting the help of a mental health professional who can help teach your child specific techniques, such as diaphragmatic breathing.
Other coping skills include:
- Making lists
- Talking to a trusted adult
- Practicing self-care
- Engaging in physical activity or exercise
Develop Routines and Structures
Setting routines and providing structure can help children feel safe and secure. This reduces the feeling of uncertainty that can worsen anxiety. Make sure to include regular sleep times, meal times and time for relaxing activities into your daily routine.
Routines are vital to helping children feel better about their anxiety, especially if they are struggling with a difficult home life. As a teacher or foster parent, ensure that your routines aren’t too rigid, and schedule a time for relaxation.
Studies also show that scheduling a “worry time” can help contain your worrying thoughts to a healthy amount.
Encourage Positive Thinking
Anxious thoughts can spiral out of control, making it difficult to focus on the present or envision a positive future. Help teach your child how to recognize those anxious thoughts and replace them with more positive statements. Stay away from language that could be interpreted as negative or critical, even if your child is struggling in school or at home.
Some common phrases that could be doing more harm than good include, “You should be able to do this,” or, “Why can’t you just try harder?” Instead, use phrases such as, “It’s okay if this is difficult for you,” or, “Let’s work together and figure out a solution.”
Don’t Run Away From Triggers
Encourage your child to face their fears instead of running away from them. Develop a plan with your child for how they will handle triggers and situations that make them feel anxious. Share the steps you can take together to make the experience easier, such as role-playing or problem-solving scenarios with them.
This helps children understand that it’s not only possible to manage their anxiety but also to find ways to cope with triggers. The worst thing you can do for anxiety is to continue to ignore triggers. Doing so only reinforces the anxiety and can set your child back.
Be Patient and Supportive
Above all, be patient and supportive of your child’s struggles with anxiety. Remind them that they are not alone in this and that you are there for them. Offer reassurance and understanding as they work through the process of managing their anxiety.
It may take time for your child to learn how to manage their anxiety, but with the right tools and help from trusted adults, they can move forward in a healthier direction.