For an adult, anxiety can be hard to deal with. But what do you do when your child is experiencing it? Here are tools and tips for helping them navigate their anxiousness, techniques that can help them deal with their present anxiety and prepare for what life throws at them as they grow up
1 “Can you draw it?”
Drawing, painting or doodling about an anxiety provides kids with an outlet for their feelings when they can’t use their words.
2 “I love you. You are safe.”
Being told that you will be kept safe by the person you love the most is a powerful affirmation. Remember, anxiety makes your children feel as if their minds and bodies are in danger. Repeating they are safe can soothe the nervous system.
4 “I will say something and I want you to say it exactly as I do: ‘I can do this.’” Do this ten times at variable volumes.
Marathon runners use this trick all of the time to get past “the wall.”
5 “Why do you think that is?”
This is especially helpful for older kids who can better articulate the “Why” in what they are feeling.
6“What will happen next?”
If your children are anxious about an event, help them think through the event and identify what will come after it. Anxiety causes myopic vision, which makes life after the event seem to disappear.
7 “We are an unstoppable team.”
Separation is a powerful anxiety trigger for young children. Reassure them that you will work together, even if they can’t see you.
8 Have a battle cry:
“I am a warrior!”;
“I am unstoppable!”; or “Look out world, here I come!”
There is a reason why people yell before they go into battle. The physical act of yelling replaces fear with endorphins. It can also be fun.
9 “If how you feel was a monster, what would it look like?”
Giving anxiety a characterization means you take a confusing feeling and make it concrete and palpable. Once kids have a worry character, they can talk to their worry.
10 “I can’t wait until _____.”
Excitement about a future moment is contagious.
11 “Let’s put your worry on the shelf while we _____ (listen to your favorite song, run around the block, read this story). Then we’ll pick it back up again.”
Those who are anxiety-prone often feel as though they have to carry their anxiety until whatever they are anxious about is over. This is especially difficult when your children are anxious about something they cannot change in the future. Setting it aside to do something fun can help put their worries into perspective.
Reprinted with permission from GoZen! Anxiety Relief for Kids (www.gozen.com)