Anxiety is one of the most common reasons parents bring their children to see a therapist. Parents often wonder what they can do to help their child and feel at a loss as to how to address the anxiety.
Here are a few tips for helping anxious kids cope:
Listen and learn more about their experience. Talk about what anxiety feels like for your child. Does their body tense up? Does their heart race? Do they get stomachaches? Have your child draw what anxiety looks like or write about what it feels like. Ask about what situations cause them to feel anxious. You might be surprised at what you learn, and it will help you learn to recognize when your child may be feeling anxious and need support.
Come up with strategies that help your child calm down. Strategies like taking deep, slow breaths, or providing a comfort object like a beloved stuffed animal or blanket, can help quite a bit. Some children have used “worry dolls” to talk to about their worries or journals in which they can write down their worries. You may need to try a few different strategies and see what works for your child. Try keeping a list or cards that your child can refer to when they need a reminder of what to do.
Show support by doing calming activities together. Try doing deep breathing with your child. Take a yoga class or a walk together to get some gentle movement in, which can really help reduce anxiety. Share some of your experiences of how you cope with feelings of anxiety and worry (make sure your examples are age appropriate, like perhaps talking about worrying about giving a presentation at work or learning a new skill; be sure not to overshare about adult problems like marital issues or severe mental health issues). Who knows, by doing some of these activities together, you may find that they are helpful in keeping you calm too!