It can be very difficult to watch your child experience the day to day struggles of life. Just like adults, children often feel anxiety as they navigate life’s ups and downs. While it may not be possible to completely remove the stressors from your child’s life, teaching your child to deal with anxiety in a healthy way is invaluable.
Signs your child may be stressed
Children react to stress in many different ways, including:
- having trouble sleeping
- refusing to participate in activities that they normally enjoy
- unexplained pains, such as headaches and stomach aches
- performing poorly in school
- behaving irritably, or being short tempered
- any other behaviour that is not “normal” for your child
The easiest way to help your child overcome anxiety is to help them learn how to deal with situations that might not be ideal.
Often, children do not feel in control of their own lives, or might feel overwhelmed by the daily activities and events that they experience.
Simply showing your child some relaxation techniques might be enough to help them overcome stress, however, some children need very focused, intentional strategies in order to control their anxiety.
Relaxation strategies for your anxious child
First of all, it is important to talk to your child and help them realize that you are here to help.
Sit down in a calm location, and simply have a conversation with your child. As you talk, your goal should be to learn what is causing your child’s anxiety, so you can best help them to relax and enjoy life without stress and worry.
Helpful things to talk about
Some questions that might be helpful as you talk with your child:
- What are you afraid will happen?
- Why do you think this is worrying you so much?
- What would make the situation better in your eyes?
- Can you explain how you felt, or how you feel now?
Talking about a situation is very helpful to children, and helps them name their own fears and worries.
To further encourage your child to recognise what is causing them anxiety, you might want to share about what causes you stress and makes you anxious.
Explain how you overcome that stress, showing your child that you understand how they feel and it is possible to move beyond anxiety.
Other ways to help your anxious child
If talking through their anxious feelings is not enough to help your child feel at ease, there are many relaxation techniques you can teach your child.
Help your child focus on deep breathing, imagining calm and cleansing thoughts as they breathe.
Focusing on past successes and good memories can help your child refocus their anxiety, as these images are very calming.
Your child can focus on calming images when they are stressed, or they can utilize a stress-relieving tool.
There are tools for reducing stress available in stores, such as squeezable balls or fidget devices, but you can also work to create do it yourself stress-relievers with your child.
Creating these tools in itself can be relaxing and allow you a chance to talk with your child.
Some ideas for DIY stress-relieving tools:
- Fill a sock with rice, tie the end securely. Your child can squeeze the sock to help relieve anxiety.
- Use an empty water bottle, fill 3/4 of the way with water and squeeze in a bit of glitter glue, then securely replace the cap. Your child can then shake the bottle, and watch the glitter and colours slowly settle as they feel calm and are able to relax.
- Use good old fashioned modelling clay or dough. Children can squeeze the dough or clay as they talk about their feelings, thoughts, and fears. They can also create shapes that represent their anxieties, then “smash” the shapes.
Drawing can relieve children’s worries
It can be very helpful for smaller children to draw their feelings. Give your child plenty of paper and crayons, and ask them to draw a picture that shows what they fear might happen in a situation.
These drawings can give you a bit more insight into your child’s thoughts, as it is often difficult for younger children to put thoughts into words.
No matter how you choose to help your child overcome their anxiety, simply being available for your child is the first step in helping them live full, healthy, happy lives.
However, if your child’s anxiety is preventing them from participating in activities that other children their age typically enjoy, seek advice from a health professional such as your GP or a psychologist who works with children.
Sometimes, someone who is ‘outside the emotional bubble’ of your family can offer qualified advice and proven strategies that you and your anxious child can implement when things get a bit tough.
© 2017 Kids First Children’s Services
If your child is anxious and you would like to learn more about how Kids First Children’s Services’ psychologists can help, please contact us on 9938 5419 or send us a confidential comment in the box below.