Strategies to Lower Anxiety in Children
There are many times during one’s childhood that nerves appear—starting a new school, meeting new friends, joining a new activity. Many deal with the normal anxiety with ease, while others become too nervous to focus, and it impacts their daily lives.1 Dealing with anxiety issues when they begin is important to reducing the risk that it will affect them into their teen and adult years.1
Children learn to cope with anxiety by calming down and solving problems—and both take time to develop.1 There are techniques that parents can use to teach their children to manage their anxiety.
- Teach basic mindfulness. Exercises that focus on mindfulness help children develop concentration, self-awareness, and relaxation.1 Have them focus on comforting images and sensations, and they will focus less on their anxiety.1 However, make it fun, too. Have them imaging squeezing the juice out of a lemon or focus on the flickering flame of a candle.1
- Teach self-compassion. Everyone makes mistakes, and speaking kindly to yourself about them is key.1 Have them practice speaking kindly of themselves, as they would with a friend.1 This will help them reduce anxiety by instilling needed confidence.1 When you catch them feeling down about themselves, talk with them about why they are feeling this way and have them point out all the positive things in the situation and how they have done well.
- Manage transitions. Routine helps children feel a sense of control.1 They do not do well in a disorganized and spontaneous lifestyle.1 Also, as children with anxiety often find transitions difficult to make, the more routine becomes important.1 Sticking to a schedule for meals, activities, sleeping, and more helps a child feel as if they have control of their lives. For those who have difficulty with other transitions, such as new doctor appointments, it is a good idea to arrive early, check it out, and make it a fun experience.1 Teaching them that transition is normal and not scary is key to reducing anxiety.1
- Do it anyway. Help your child combat their discouragement by having them attempt whatever they are avoiding (within means).1 For example, if they are anxious about a test, they may not want to study as they feel they will fail anyway.1 However, “nevertheless” statements are a great way to combat their unwillingness to try.1 “If I am going to fail, there is no use in studying. Nevertheless, I have a better chance to pass if I try.”1 Use nevertheless sentences in all situations. It will encourage them to look at the positive aspects of doing an activity, and lessen their anxiety while increasing their self-esteem.1 It lets them know that they can do it.
Coaching your child to lower their anxiety is a great way to avoid persistent problems in the future.1 Finding a qualified therapist to work with them, also, is a great idea.1