Anxiety is one of the most common emotions people experience all over the world. It affects a large section of people ranging from kids to adults. The most vulnerable section of people affected by anxiety is children.
Anxiety in kids is a complex emotion to conquer as kids haven’t explored the world as much. They are trying almost everything for the first time, and that’s scary.
Luckily, parents can help children with anxiety through simple steps and exercises. If you are a parent looking for a solution to provide your kids a safe space to calm their anxiety, this article is just for you.
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Let’s start with the very basics and get to practical exercises to calm your kid’s anxiety. And by the end of this article, you can start working on your kid’s healthy mindset.
1. Label anxiety
Anxiety is a common emotion both kids and adults face, but it remains a topic that isn’t discussed in households. As a result of keeping anxiety undiscussed, anxiety in children can become a taboo and a problem later on in life.
As your child grows up, they start to understand their emotions. They know when they feel sad, happy, and angry, but for complex emotions like jealousy and anxiety, kids still do not have a name. They know they might be feeling something, but they can not put a finger at it; after all, they do not even know what it is.
When your child gets anxious, the best thing you can do is put a label on it. Help your child identify the emotion, and then they will realize it isn’t something they are dealing with on their own.
Instead of trying to eliminate anxiety as a negative emotion, you should teach your kids to identify it. Once your kid knows what they are feeling, they don’t have to keep bottling up their feelings. They can rationalize with themselves and learn to overcome it.
- As parents, the first step to helping your children with anxiety is to start a conversation about it. Be open to listening to their thoughts, worries, and experiences, and give them a safe space.
- Reading is a helpful and fun way to help your children recognize their emotions. Scaredy Squirrel by Mélanie Wyatt is a series about a timid squirrel filled with friendly fun. The squirrel takes on its fears slowly, and your child will live a journey with it. This will help your child see themselves, identify their emotions, and channel them.
- Do not invalidate your kid’s emotions and worries. Even if their fears seem tiny to you, try to listen to them. Telling them it’s no big deal or it’s nothing will make them feel worse, and they’ll retreat.
2. Introduce your kids to their fears
Now that you have helped your children identify their emotions, it’s time you let your kids face them. As mentioned above, if anxiety remains undiscussed, it can lead to more significant issues during kids’ adulthood.
The more you try to sweep it under the rug, the more wind to the flame you’ll blow. For example, if your kid is scared of meeting new people, they’ll stay scared until you nudge them to go out.
The lesson here is if you keep ignoring anxiety in children, they will not know how to react to it. Just like if your kid never meets new people, they’ll never learn how to do it; they’ll just keep hiding.
Similarly, if your child doesn’t understand how to face anxiety, they’ll never know how to channel all the other emotions that come with it.
Taking things step by step gradually can help your child overcome their fears. Positive parenting advises parents to make gradual changes when they are dealing with child development. Here are some examples and tips to help your children face their f
- If your child experiences separation anxiety, the best way to overcome it is to start doing things together. Start with an activity together and gradually encourage your kids to do it on their own.
- If your child is afraid to meet new people, you should introduce them to new people with you by their side. Sit with them, make them comfortable, and help them talk to people first; when they get used to it, allow them to do it by themselves.
- Talk to your child about their issues over a relaxing coloring session. Get some fun coloring pages for kids and have a quiet time discussing with your kids.
- Practice the ways and tips to calm their anxiety. Slowly and surely, they’ll learn how to channel their emotions and overcome fear.
Insight: Do not try to keep your children away from things that induce anxiety in children. You may think you are protecting your kids, but this is a temporary solution. It may allow your kids to calm down for now, but it is a blast waiting to happen in the longer run.
For example, if your child knows in a situation of distress you will come to rescue them, they would not think of solutions; they’ll just avoid the problem or search you. And if they get anxious alone, it’s a recipe for trouble.
3. Find a calming technique
Your children know their feelings, and you have introduced them to their fears; it’s time to take care of the aftermath. To channel emotions, your kids will need to take specific measures that include mental and physical activities. And when your kids find an activity they can relax with, they can establish their own relaxation technique.
Children with anxiety can have different ways to calm themselves. They can choose a technique they find the most peaceful, but you have to introduce them to their choices.
Some kids like to do simple breathing exercises, some like to work out, some go for walks, and some resort to books to calm themselves. Present a variety of options to your kids and let them choose what they feel the most comfortable with.
- Start by introducing your kids to reading. You can start by reading to your child and gradually letting them read. When your child feels anxious, they can pick up any book near them and read away their worries.
- Help your kids find a creative way to cope with anxiety by getting them simple coloring pages. These will help your child release their emotions through colors, and it’s suitable for their brain development and motor skills too.
- Deep breathing exercises are the most popular technique used to calm anxiety. It is evident as stress and worrying increase your heart rate. Not only that, anxiety can make your breathing shallow, which reduces the supply of oxygen to your brain and the other parts of the body; it can make the reaction worse. So to calm anxiety in children, you need to practice deep breathing.
- The best way to teach children is to show them. Let your kids see how you deal with worries, stressful situations, and anxiety. If you follow rational methods, model calm behavior, and do what you ask your kids to do, they’ll learn from it. But do not put up a facade to hide your emotions from your kids; just model rational behavior.
4. Let them come up with solutions
Children can get easily scared, and handling their anxiety can be trickier than adults. If you have a child, you might have already experienced how easily they get worried. They have a whole lot of what-ifs up their sleeve.
What if this happens? What if that doesn’t work? And as a parent, your obvious reaction is to stop their train of doubtful thoughts and reassure them that everything will be alright, right?
You might want to protect your kids from any stressful situation, but facing these situations will make your kids stronger, calmer, and responsible.
If your kids constantly doubt their abilities and come to you with what-ifs, you need to ask them the same question. If your children ask you, “What if I lost my favorite toy?” ask them, what will you do if that happens? How will it make you feel?
Constant reassuring can promote anxiety in children and can keep the cycle of anxiety going. Reassuring children doesn’t give them a practical way out, it only sustains doubt, and if things don’t work out desirably, it proves fatal for their confidence.
Instead of blindly reassuring them, give your kids a chance to reflect and think. It will allow them to give themselves space and come up with a solution.
- Whenever your kids ask you these what-if questions, give them a fun activity to work out a solution for themselves. First, give them options of potential solutions and when they understand how things work, let them do it themselves.
- When things do not work according to the plan, ask your children to call you or reach you. It is good to exercise your kid’s brains to calm them, but it is a part of good parenting to let them know you’ll be there for them.
Tip: If your kids do not talk to you about their fears first, be cautious while asking them questions. Ask open-ended questions, so you do not ask the wrong question and feed fear to them. For example, instead of asking, “Are you scared of the dark?” ask, “How do you feel about nighttime?” or “How do you feel when the lights go out?”
5. Practice, practice, practice!
The truth is no matter how many practical tips you use, without actually applying them, they will be of no use. So the secret to calming anxiety in children is practicing the techniques you teach. This doesn’t mean you have to expose your children to stressful situations in real life.
As discussed above, anxiety in children can be induced and heightened by a lot of factors. You do not want to keep your kids protected in a cocoon, but at the same time, you do not wish to send out your children to the world unprepared. So the right way to allow your child to channel their emotions is to let them practice their techniques.
To help your child practice channeling their emotions, here are some examples:
- The first step to practice any technique with your child is to acknowledge that anxiety is a normal emotion that many people experience. Sit with your child and have an open conversation to know how they feel and ask them if they understand why they think this way. If they do not answer, do not force them; be calm and have a heart-to-heart dialogue.
- If your child gets anxious in unfamiliar places, you need to take them to places they are not familiar with. Going to new places with your child will help them get comfortable around unfamiliar surroundings. The more you go with your child, the more they’ll be less anxious about it. And once your child gets used to it, you can start sending your child to new places nearby under supervision.
- If your child feels anxious while talking to people, you can try teaching them small talk. Practice a few introductory lines with them and allow them to speak to friends and family when you’re together. You can teach them more after.
- Similarly, practice the calming technique you’ve decided for your child. If you practice it once or twice, your child will be well versed with the method.
6. Appreciate your kids
You don’t need to be a parent to know it is difficult to get children to do something they are not genuinely interested in. It is essential to know that you have to encourage your kids through games, appreciation, and entertainment. A study shows that anxiety develops in children who stay away from scary situations.
It is parents’ responsibility to motivate children to be open to trying out new things. Rewards also do the trick to encourage children at the early stages of practice. But rewarding children to make them act a certain way can have its drawbacks too:
- Your child may develop a sense of entitlement.
- They might believe that desirable behavior always leads to desirable outcomes.
- Kids may lose interest in the activity they are given a reward for.
However, rewards have their set of benefits too. Thoughtfully rewarding children can help your children develop an interest in their hobbies and activities. Even if the prizes are small, you can use them to calm anxiety in children. Here are some tips you can use to appreciate and reward your children:
- Start by teaching patience to your kids. As your child learns to wait, they’ll also learn to channel their emotions. As they wait, you can introduce them to easy art and craft and fun coloring pages for kids.
- Appreciating your child can be a form of reward too. Kids want to gain attention from their parents, and if you show them constant love and support, they’ll be calm, comfortable, and open to opportunities.
- The best reward for your child can be your company. Whenever you expose your child to a new situation that may be anxiety-causing, you need to assure them you’ll be watching over them. Offer them a great time together with fun and relaxing kids’ activities.
Insight: There are two crucial things to note. First, appreciate the effort your child makes. Even if the calming techniques they are using may not work, encourage them to do better and appreciate them for trying.
Second, just as you should not ask leading questions, you should not discuss and add to the anticipation.
7. Use trusted techniques
When it comes to teaching calming techniques for anxiety in children, your aim should be long-term benefits too. Yes, you want your child to calm down at the moment, but you also want them to establish techniques that are effective, well-researched, and work long-term.
Here are three exercises you can try to calm anger and anxiety in children:
1. Breathing exercises
Breathing exercises are among the most effective ways to calm anger, anxiety, or any emotional situation. As described above, increased anxiety induces shallow breathing.
When that happens, oxygen intake decreases, and that stimulates stress. That’s why gentle and deep breathing is vital to reduce anxiety, stress and feel better.
Yoga and deep breathing exercises help your kids channel their breathing and focus on feeling better. The technique here is to fill up the lungs and expand the diaphragm.
It stimulates a feeling of calmness and rest. Deep breathing slows down the heart rate, lowers elevated blood pressure, and instills restfulness.
Here is how you can start:
- Start practicing breathing exercises with your child. Start slow and for a shorter duration.
- When you see your child can stay put for a short time, increase the duration.
- After establishing a good foundation, introduce your kids to yoga. Easy-to-follow and short poses can help your child’s physical and mental strength.
2. Art Therapy
Art therapy is using art and craft to calm a person. It is especially effective for kids as kids already find colors, crafts, and everything fun. If your kid isn’t inclined towards breathing exercises or brain teasers, an artistic approach is the best way to go.
Also, in the case of children who do not like or are unable to communicate clearly, art therapy is effective. Art and craft offer emotional release and encourage creativity in both children and adults. Not only is it good for your mind, but it is good for sensory capabilities too. Moreover, it is a screen-free method of having a good time.
Here is how you can start:
- It would help if you had fun coloring pages for kids. They will enjoy coloring these unique pages with their favorite colors.
- If your child is a budding artist, you should introduce them to these drawing pages for kids. You’ll see them flourish into a great artist while they release their feelings with creativity.
- Encourage your children to do fun art and crafts that require very little supervision from you. Whenever they feel anxious, they can just whip out simple materials in your house and make a masterpiece.
3. Deep Pressure Therapy
As the name suggests, deep pressure therapy involves applying pressure on the body to reduce anxiety. It uses gentle pressure on your child’s body through a cloth or else to relax them.
Here is how you can introduce it:
- Hugs effectively release stress, so don’t be afraid to hug your child whenever they feel anxious. Obviously, you need to ask for their permission to do so while they are anxious, but in most cases, it works.
- When kids are on their own, they can take support from a snug vest or inflatable garments.
- Moreover, there is a variety of squeezing products made specially to reduce anxiety.
- You can also ask your doctor to guide you regarding the use of blankets for overcoming anxiety.
Hope this article helps you get some insight on calming anxiety in children. These tips will help every parent try a simple yet effective approach to parenting to nurture their children to overcome anxiety. Use these helpful tips, share them with your loved ones, and have a great time parenting!
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