Everyone feels worried or has fear at some point in their life, and it’s a normal part of growing up. However, when those feelings are manifested and don’t go away, your child might have anxiety.
Fortunately, there have been multiple studies on anxiety, and it’s a pretty manageable condition.
Here are seven ways you can support your anxious kids.
1-) Understand and Validate Their Feelings
A child with anxiety will often be worried about something that most other people aren’t worried about. You might want to tell them not to worry about it or that it’s not a big deal, but in reality, for them, it is a big deal. Responses that brush off your child’s feelings make your child think that their emotions are wrong.
Try validating their feelings to understand where they’re coming from. If they’re nervous about something, say, “I understand you’re feeling nervous now, and that’s okay.” Then, give them positive reinforcement and tell them that they’re brave enough to accomplish the task and get through the emotions.
2-) Help Them Through Negative Thoughts
Children with anxiety and depression will often harbor negative thoughts. The same is true vice versa — a child who constantly thinks negatively about life or situations may end up with anxiety and low self-esteem. When your child has a negative thought, help them through it.
You can teach your child to identify their negative thoughts. The best thing to do is catch it. If there’s a recurring negative thought, remind your child of that. Then, once it’s identified, your child can challenge it and find the lies within it. From there, they can change the negative thought into something positive.
3-) Offer Reassurance
About half of the adults in the United States and around seven percent of kids have anxiety. Always offer reassurance with your child, letting them know that the fear will go away and they’re not alone. This is something you should do whether your child has anxiety or not, although it does certainly benefit those with anxious kids. An episode of anxiety won’t last forever, even though it may seem like it for your child at that moment.
Tell them that the anxiety will pass soon and that everything will be okay. Anxiety comes and goes, like the waves in the ocean. Explain to your child that they have to ride the wave for it to break and get back to shore. This can be a helpful illustration, especially for younger children who don’t understand much about their anxiety yet.
4-) Help Them Through Healthy Activities
Some activities are essential for your mental health. If your child isn’t sure about living a healthier lifestyle, then go through some activities with them. A few times a week, exercise together by taking a walk or riding a bicycle. Additionally, set a sleep schedule so you know your child is getting enough rest.
If your family eats processed foods, switch to healthier ones, like lean proteins, fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and ensure your child is drinking plenty of water. Also, take time every day to spend quality time with your anxious child and family.
5-) Recognize the Signs of an Anxiety Attack
Typically, anxiety attacks have similar signs. Helping your child recognize their anxiety attack symptoms can allow them to ask for help before it gets too severe. For example, your child might feel like their heart is racing or they might feel sick. Here are some common signs of an anxiety attack:
- Feeling nervous or restless
- Changes in breathing
- Trouble concentrating
- Feeling weak or trembling
Knowing the signs that are specific to your child can make it easier to control the anxiety. Plus, you’ll know what’s happening and won’t feel as overwhelmed when the attack occurs.
6-) Create a Self-Soothe Box
Creating a worry box or a self-soothe box can be beneficial for your child. Start by having your child physically write out their worries. Once they’ve written them down, grab a box for your child to put them into, which gives them a physical space for their fears and worries to go.
A self-soothe box is a little bit different. Grab a box and have your child fill it with various items that soothe them when they’re feeling anxious. This could be a stuffed animal, photos of friends or family, uplifting quotes and affirmations or a particular fabric that they love to feel. When they’re feeling anxious, they can locate the box and use those items to rethink their negativity or worry.
7-) Seek Professional Guidance
Finally, if you’re worried about your child’s mental health, then it’s time to seek professional guidance. With the above tips, you can support your child if they have mild anxiety, but sometimes, it’s not enough, especially if your child isn’t getting any better.
You can first go to your pediatrician or your child’s primary care doctor. They should be able to point you in the right direction. Anxiety disorders are common, and you and your child are not alone in this. Professional help from a therapist or getting medications will allow your child to be on the way towards recovery.
Take One Step at a Time
It may take a while to find what works for you and your child. Try these different ways to support your anxious kids so you can better manage the anxiety.