Anxiety is a scary emotion for children (and for grown-ups too). But trying to convince your children out of this emotion can ultimately lead to increased anxiety. Connecting to your child while they’re experiencing stress and anxiety can help them build strength and resilience.
Tips to Reduce Anxiety for Your Child in the Moment:
1. Use the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 grounding exercise, available here.
2. Say positive affirmations to your child and have them repeat back to you 4+ times. For example: "I am brave, I am kind, I am safe, I am positive, I am loving."
3. Empathize, then come up with a plan. Pure empathy is saying, "I see you are feeling frustrated. You seem worried right now."
Develop a plan to get through the next few moments together. If the child has a role in creating the plan, they will be more invested. For example, if your child does not want to go to camp you may want to try the following: "I hear you saying you do not want to go. You seem worried. (Hear what she or he is saying). Let's come up with a plan. Would you like to be able to check-in with me at the 1/2 day mark? Would you like to plan something fun for after camp?"
Six Proactive Coping Tools For Anxiety:
1. Healthy sleep is vital to our emotional well-being. Children 7-12 years-old should be getting 10-11 hours of sleep per night.
2. Repeat positive affirmations 4+ times each day. Model this for children and have them repeat after you. Bedtime is a great time to use this strategy.
3. Discuss the science behind breathing and worry. Discuss how there is researched-based evidence that shows our breath is tied into our heart rate and our stress levels. Practice breathing when feeling calm, so when anxiety is present, it’s less powerful and more easily reduced.
4. Practice mindfulness and visualizations.
5. Exercise regularly.
6. Practice self-care. Good self-care is key to improving mood and decreasing anxiety, yet it’s often overlooked. Take a break from screens, get fresh air, eat healthy, and laugh!