How to help children navigate anxiety

Kids seek reassurance from their parents when worries creep in. It is reasonable to be worried, in times of uncertainty. You can tell your child that you too feel worried at times. The first step is to acknowledge their emotions and concerns. Feeling understood and not alone is reassuring.

Step 1:

Acknowledge that worry is an important emotion, that protects us from danger. Everyone worries. But when it pops up in times when we’re not in imminent danger it can be unhelpful. We can teach our kids to recognise worry as a visitor. They can tell worry “Oh hi worry, thanks for trying to protect me, but I’m not in danger right now- I don’t need you thanks.”

Step 2:

Let’s try to calm our body.

* Deep breathing can hack the nervous system by allowing oxygen to fill the body bringing the state of mind back down to a stable level.

* Singing with them is another calming strategy

* Grounding is a strategy by using the body’s senses to calm the stress and gain presence in the moment. Ask your child to look for 5 items in their favourite colour, name 5 things they can hear, 5 things they can touch.

Step 3:

Once you’ve used some of these strategies and your child is calm, discuss with them that feelings are not necessarily true facts. Feelings and thoughts can be challenged by saying, “Hey, that’s just a worry thought, I don’t think that was really a true fact!” Your child can feel empowered that they challenged the thought and they won!

Ongoing support for your child:

Teaching your children the vocabulary of emotions can help them describe their physical feelings and emotions. Journaling can help children to express how they are feeling in their own words in their, in their own way.

Help your child to develop positive self talk and to show compassion to themselves. Encourage them to praise their accomplishment in overcoming the situation and moving forward through the feeling even when it was hard. It takes bravery to combat these feelings, and that is something to be proud of.

You support them. You stand by them even when you feel helpless.

Trust your gut. Trust your parenting. You know your child.

Talk about the difficulties and ask for help if you need it. Find allies who get it and get you.

They are not alone. You are not alone!

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