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If you are a parent of an anxious child, you know that even simple morning tasks can take longer than you may expect. Dealing with an anxious child makes your heartache for they do not know how to overcome their nervousness and introversion to explore the world. Living with a child who exhibits these behaviors tests your patience. Many parents seek alternative ways to make their children more comfortable and at ease with life. In this article, you’ll learn how to help your child with their anxiety and teach them how to regulate their emotions in a healthier and more effective way.
1) Build up their confidence
Self-talk is one of the most vital yet under-recognized forms of self-care. The self-talk that we develop and consistently use during childhood helps to determine our self-image and confidence as we mature. This makes it important for parents to assist their children in crafting healthy and balanced self-talk to help them through all they will experience in life. You can help develop your child’s self-talk skills by encouraging them their pursuits or talking through self-deprecating statements such as “I can’t do it,” or “I’m no good at anything.”
It may be easy for you to teach your child to love themselves and those around them but the shift in their thinking won’t happen overnight. Be persistent in your efforts. Show your child how wonderful they are and how supportive you are of them. Encourage your child to explore new activities while making sure they know that you’re by their side.
2) Practice meditation
Meditation is a simple activity that requires time to set aside for peaceful reflection and searching for inner calmness. Some people experience difficulty meditating, reporting that they feel they still cannot “turn their brains off” to sit and be comfortable with the stillness of meditation. Fortunately, the ability to remain calm in the absence of commotion often comes with practice.
Even if you are not the most experienced person in the area of peaceful and calming activities, meditation is an easy practice that can be passed on to your child. The benefits of meditation go far beyond assisting your anxious child, as research has shown that meditation can assist in managing depression, anxiety, and stress levels, and help you to reflect on your daily life.
3) Teach deep breathing
Another calming practice that helps children regulate the physical effects of anxiety and stress is deep breathing. Your child can benefit from this quick time-out to give their body a signal that things are okay and there is no need to panic. There are many scripts online and in textbooks that can guide you through deep breathing for children.
Furthermore, there are many creative and playful ways to teach your child about breathing. For example, you can teach your child to watch the movement of a pinwheel, feather, or blowing bubbles to see the impact of their breath. You can also teach your child to lay on their back, place a toy on their stomach and watch their stomach rise and fall as the breath goes in and out of their lungs.
Once your child becomes better and better at deep breathing, this will turn into another simple activity that can be done anywhere that anxiety rises. This includes on the school bus, at the park, in the playroom, or at the doctor’s office.
4) Write with them
Journaling and writing down your thoughts is a fantastic way to reflect on your feelings, events in your life, and shed some light on your reactions to certain situations. Many adults use this as a way to have a “one-on-one” conversation with themselves to process and regulate their emotions and behaviors. This practice can be taught to children who are able to write in an effort to encourage an open discussion about feelings.
While it is beneficial to have your child open up to others and speak about how they feel inside, an anxious or introverted child often has difficulty articulating how they feel to someone else. In fact, many children have difficulty writing their feelings down at first. With time, this activity will become something your child looks forward to each day, or even several times each day! Writing can be made more creative by choosing a fun notebook, using various pens, and adding stickers to deepen the meaning of what your child is writing about.
5) Get them moving
Exercise is a great way to lower stress levels in the body, but physical activity also benefits the mind by helping people process emotions that are having difficulty verbalizing or recognizing. Exercise releases endorphins, which can assist in mood regulation. Physical activity also helps to improve sleep and increases thinking, learning, and judgment – all of which help a young child become more connected with how they feel.
Physical benefits to exercise including lowering your child’s risk for obesity and heart disease while strengthening bones and muscles and regulating blood glucose and insulin levels. The incorporation of regular exercise can also be a good way to teach your child the benefits of physical activity and how it positively impacts the body and the mind. Your child will learn more about how their entire body works while learning to process their emotions more regularly.
Deep breathing, meditation, physical activity, improved self-talk, and writing are all effective ways to help children who demonstrate anxiety or nervous tendencies. These are also great opportunities for your child to work with you to manage their feelings in the moment. These techniques provide your child with the chance to independently regulate their moods when they feel their anxiety levels climbing.
As always, giving your child the comfort and reassurance that they need during times of anxiety and stress will show that you are a constant in their life. This teaches your child that life can be stressful, but reaching out to their support network is encouraged to help manage difficult times.
If you feel that your child’s anxiety and stress levels are severe and significantly impacting their ability to function at school, at home, or in the community, contact your child’s pediatrician. They can provide specific recommendations or treatment methods to assist in decreasing your child’s anxiety.
- Gonzalez-Valero, G., Zurita-Ortega, F., Ubago-Jimenez, J.L., & Puertas-Molero, P. (2019). Use of meditation and cognitive behavioral therapies for the treatment of stress, depression, and anxiety in students. A systematic review and meta-analysis. Int J Environ Res Public Health, 16(22), E4394. doi:10.3390/ijerph16224394
- Medline Plus. (2019). Benefits of exercise. Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/benefitsofexercise.html