Updated: Jul 31
As a parent, there’s nothing worse than seeing your child hurting. Falling and scraping a knee is one thing, but when kids struggle with anxiety, seemingly simple tasks can turn into an emotional and mental chore. While therapy and medication can be effective, there are some alternative options for anxiety in children.
1. Get Grounded
Grounding is a term used to describe the process of bringing yourself back into the physical body, rather than letting thoughts run out of control. One grounding technique is called the 5-4-3-2-1 exercise and it’s used frequently by people with anxiety.
Walk your child through the process of listing 5 things they see in the room. Then, have them list 4 things they can feel. Next, list 3 things they can hear, and 2 things they can smell. Finish by having your child say 1 positive thing about themselves. Take as long as your child needs and repeat as many times as necessary.
It can be easy to overlook the struggles your child’s facing when everyday life might be full of anxiety triggers. But it’s important to acknowledge when your child does something difficult, which required a bit of extra bravery. The powers of praise should not be underestimated when it comes to making your child feel more secure.
It could mean something seemingly small to you, like raising a hand in class. Acknowledgment can mean something different for each child. Maybe your little one likes cheers and claps, or maybe they prefer a gold star on the fridge. Either way, an acknowledgement will help build confidence.
Having your child involved in hobbies they don’t like could create feelings of inadequacy. For example, enrolling your child in soccer could be a major source of anxiety if they excel at dance.
An anxious child might not be upfront about their feelings either. It’s important to pay attention to your child’s unique telltale signs of anxiety. Do you often hear, “I don’t feel well” right before practice? Or maybe it’s like pulling teeth to get that uniform on. These could actually be signs of anxiety.
4. Embrace Some Anxiety
Remember, it’s okay to let your child experience some anxiety. Facing uncomfortable situations is a part of life. In fact, some levels of anxiety can be healthy. Giving your child the tools to take on those situations will only give them more confidence now, and later in life.
Embracing anxiety also helps neutralize the emotion. By embracing anxiety, it’s no longer a feeling that must be avoided and feared. Rather, your child will begin to recognize that it’s something that will come and go in time.
Similar to embracing anxiety, it’s also important to not coddle an anxious child. It might be tempting to avoid an anxiety attack by simply avoiding triggers, but some are necessary. Some children may not want to go to a birthday party or talk to a grown-up, but these situations help kids develop and mature.
You can find ways to work with your anxious child to tackle these uncomfortable environments. As an example, you could offer to stay at a birthday party until your child feels comfortable on their own. If your child is anxious about talking to adults, you could try rehearsing what to say before having to approach the adult. This helps set expectations and reduce some of the unknowns that could be the source of anxiety.
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Goldstein, Clark. “What to Do (and Not Do) When Children Are Anxious.” Retrieved from https://childmind.org/article/what-to-do-and-not-do-when-children-are-anxious/
Jain, Renee. (2014, August 6). “9 Things Every Parent with an Anxious Child Should Try.” Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/renee-jain/9-things-every-parent-with-an-anxious-child-should-try_b_5651006.html