Anyone who has an anxious child knows how hard it is watching your little one struggle with worry. For us, our eldest has always been on the anxious side. He struggled badly with separation anxiety for years and that was just the start. Once he could express his feelings verbally the truth of his little anxious mind was revealed.
For him, anxiety is a part of every day. He worries about what’s happening now as well as what might happen in the future, and at times it can really consume him. At six, he is still young and we’ve been trying a range of techniques to help him. We’ve also sought professional advice but at the moment they are of the “wait and see” approach so for now we are aiming to equip him with lots of techniques and strategies to manage his anxiety. Practical things we can do at home to help him find his way.
Mindfulness & visualisation
Mindfulness has become a bit of an “in” term at the moment but I’ve found it quite helpful in settling my son when he’s feeling the physical symptoms of anxiety. I try to help him focus on the now; what he’s feeling, what’s around him and letting those thoughts just float by. We’ve been combining this with a bit of visualisation, particularly at night time. I guide him to imagine a balloon that he fills up with his worries and then lets it go into the sky, or a box that he puts them in and then gives to me for safe keeping. I’ve heard of people using worry dolls or worry boxes for the same purpose.
I’ve found it really helpful to give my son phrases that he can use to help talk himself down from anxious thoughts. He does a program at school called “bounce back” and I’ve often caught him chanting “bounce back” to himself (and using it on his brother). The idea being to help recover from a negative experience or thought. He also uses “this will pass” and “I can do this” to help manage negative thinking.
Every day we make time to talk about the highs and lows of our day. I ask him how he felt about different situations and how he’s managing those feelings. Sometimes we will draw our feelings or do some visulisation to help. During this time I try not to “fix” his feelings, I acknowledge them and sometimes challenge them but I let him know that it is ok to feel that way and that the feelings will pass.
Try this: Teaching Kids the Art of Conversation
Exercise and get outdoors
Exercise has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety in adults and I believe it is the same for kids. Exercise releases tension and helps my boy move the focus away from himself. Luckily my sons both love getting outside and having a good run around, and sometimes it is a great distraction when I can see worry building in my eldest.
See an expert
Anxiety is very real for both children and adults and it isn’t always as simple as self-help strategies. We saw my son’s GP and then his paediatrician when we started to notice his anxiety take hold and I found it very helpful to have a professional viewpoint on the situation. If your child or teenagers anxiety has been ongoing, is interfering with their everyday life or seems to be worsening, don’t waste time, get help!
If you are looking for some great resources on anxiety in children, I’ve found these sites very useful:
- Worry Wise Kids (LOTS of practical info)
- Youth Beyond Blue
- Kids Matter
- Raising Children: Anxiety Info
- Phrases to help calm an anxious child
More for mum with anxious kids:
- How I Dealt with My 9-Year-Old Daughter’s Separation Anxiety
- How I Managed My Child’s School Drop-Off Anxiety (and Meltdowns!)
- Study: Overprotective Parenting May Worsen Kids’ Anxiety
Image: Michelle Thompson-Laing