Effective Methods to Reduce Anxiety
By Guest Author, Jennifer Landis
If your child exhibits nervousness before the first day of school, that’s normal. However, if your child hides behind your pants legs every time they meet someone new or encounter an unusual situation, they may have anxiety. Whether your child has a formal diagnosis of a disorder or merely displays unusual fearfulness, you want to assuage their tension.
How can you help your child manage their anxiety naturally?
Fortunately, many of the techniques you use as an adult to self-soothe work for the little ones, as well. The next time your angel grows fretful, give one of these techniques a try.
1. Keep Your Expectations Realistic
Think about the last time you felt tense, and someone told you to calm down. Did that technique work effectively? Chances are, it didn’t.
Attempts to minimize your child’s fears can backfire. After all, if you say, “You’ll have a great time at David’s party,” and they don’t, how will they trust you in the future? This sense of doubt increases, not decreases, anxiety.
Instead, say, “We’ll go for a half-hour, and if you aren’t having fun, we can leave.” This technique calms their frazzled nerves. They know they have a way out after a specified time. They also know you haven’t discounted their fears entirely, which helps them feel safe approaching you in the future.
2. Socialize Them Early
Your children begin forming social skills at an early age, and introducing them to other children when they’re young can prevent social anxiety disorder. Children begin responding to others within the first year — they must meet new people early on.
You might notice your baby appears more bashful with some strangers. Hug and comfort them until they feel comfortable with the new presence. As they grow older, arrange for regular playdates to get them accustomed to interacting with a wide variety of individuals.
3. Practice Meditation Together
You know you reap enormous benefits from a routine practice of meditation. So can your child. Schools that have replaced standard punishments like detention with mindfulness meditation see a significant improvement in behavior.
You can take your child on a relaxing mental adventure with a guided meditation exercise. Alternately, you can float in a pool together or spend time petting the family pet in silence.
4. Create an Anxiety Kit
When you have a medical emergency, you need a first-aid kit. When your child struggles with anxiety, they need a way to distract themselves before they meltdown. Create an anxiety kit full of soothing activities your little one enjoys.
Some examples include coloring books and crayons or word search puzzles. You might add blank paper and pencils or a favorite comfort object, like a stuffed animal or blanket.
5. Get Them Moving
In adults, exercise releases endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Working out has the same effect on tiny bodies. Take your children to the park and let them run and jump. Climb on the equipment with them and have fun releasing your inner child, too. When your little one is exhausted, it’s harder for them to act out due to anxiety.
6. Do Arts and Crafts
Did you ever notice how you feel more relaxed when you’re arranging a floral centerpiece or whipping up a delicacy in the kitchen? Your kids can benefit from the soothing properties of making things with their hands, too. Help them find a hobby they love.
If they can’t get enough of the outdoors, consider creating a family garden, and letting them tend their plot. If they display a penchant for woodworking, help them build a better birdhouse.
7. Write It Out
Writing without worrying about accuracy can help your child release negative emotions.
Have your child write down their worries on a piece of paper. Then, have them tear the paper to shreds. Most children enjoy the physical aspect of this activity. It gives them a powerful tool to use when they later ruminate over past events they can’t change, too.
8. Talk Back to Their Worries
Talking back is another technique to help your child understand they don’t have to let their thoughts control them.
Typically, adults tell children to repress their urge to backtalk, but here’s one area it comes in handy.
Have your little one shout, “You don’t control me, worry,” at the top of their lungs. They’ll relieve tension and may even laugh, which further reduces stress levels.
9. Comfort Them When They Need It
Finally, your child may grow more anxious, not less, if they don’t get the comfort they need. You don’t want your little one clinging to your metaphorical apron strings all the time. However, you, as a parent, are their rock in a chaotic world. They need to know they can come to you for protection when they feel unsafe.
Establish a set time daily when you check in with your child about their day and their feelings. You can have this discussion over the family dinner table. Ask them what made them feel happy that day.
By focusing on the positive, and developing open communication lines, your child can rest assured you’ll be there when they need you most.
Help Your Child Manage Their Anxiety Naturally
Raising a child with anxiety can feel challenging at times. You want to do the best you can to improve their mental health. By incorporating these techniques, you can teach your little angel to react less fearfully to the world.