Figure 1: There are many ways that you can help your child manage their anxiety.
When your child is suffering from anxiety, it can be a very frustrating time for both of you. You obviously want to help relieve them of their symptoms, and, although they want relief as well, it can be incredibly difficult for them to express this in a way that you can understand. Experts say that only someone suffering from anxiety can truly understand what it’s like, and that can make our jobs as parents that much more challenging. Still, we do our best to help soothe our children and show them ways that they use to effectively manage their anxiety and feel calmer and more confident.
It is important to remember that all children and young people get anxious at times, and this is a normal part of their development. Also, we all have different levels of stress we can cope with – some people are just naturally more anxious than others, and are quicker to get stressed or worried.
If you feel your child’s anxiety is not getting any better or is getting worse, and your efforts have not worked, anxiety counselling with a qualified professional can help you and your child reduce the symptoms of anxiety and live a happier, healthier life. Below are some effective tips that we hope you and your child will find helpful:
These are things that can really make a difference:
- Talk to your child about anxiety, what is happening in their body and why it happens. Many children and young people don’t know what they are feeling when they are anxious, and it can be very frightening and They might even think they are very ill or that they are having a heart attack.
- Help them to recognise anxious feelings so they can tell when they are becoming anxious and can ask for help.
- Tell your child that the anxiety will pass. It can be helpful to describe the anxiety as a wave to ride or surf that gets smaller after it peaks.
- Get your child to breathe deeply and slowly, in through their nose for three counts and out through their mouth for three counts.
- Distract them by focusing on something else.
- Give them a cuddle or hold their hand if they will let you – touch can be
- It can help to talk to your child about finding a safe place in their mind -somewhere that they feel relaxed and happy. It may be a grandparent’s orfriend’s house or a holiday beside the sea which they can picture when‘wrong thoughts’ come into their head or they are feeling anxious. Sometimes holding a memento, like a seashell or pebble, can help.
- If your child is feeling the need to check things or repeat certain actions, suggest they count up to 10 before they start checking as a delaying tactic.
- Encourage your child to notice what makes them anxious. Talking it through can help but your child could also try keeping a diary or a ‘worry book’.
- Make a ‘worry box’. Your child can write each worry down and post it in the box out of sight. Small children will enjoy decorating the box too. They can leave the worries in there for, say, a week to see if they were worth worrying about (if not they can be torn up). Alternatively, you could designate a specific ‘worry time’ for around 10 or 20 minutes, (but not too close to bedtime, or when the child is in bed), so worries can be saved up for that time. This gives the message that we are in control of their worries and not vice versa.
- Work on helpful thinking. Name their worst casescenarios and think through together how to sort out the situation if it happens, e.g. ‘I’m worried that we’ll miss the bus.’ ‘What do you think we could do if that happens?’ ‘We could get the next bus’.
- Help them maintain a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise to reduce the levels of stress hormones, good sleeping habits, calm bedtime routines, limited screen or computer time in the evening, and a healthy diet.
- Welcome Humour–laughter is the best medicine after all. In fact, laughter is one of the best ways for your child (and adults) to take a break from their anxiety levels, because it releases ‘feel-good’ hormones in the body.
Contact Stepping Stones Clinic
To learn more ways to help your child manage their anxiety, contact Stepping Stones Clinic today and speak to an expert who can answer your questions.
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