Ashley is sharing tips on helping kids with anxiety.
Last year, I found out my 8-year old had generalized anxiety disorder. I also have anxiety, so it wasn’t surprising that my child struggled with it too. However, it was definitely hard to hear, and I wanted to help him. Through these struggles, I have found many tips to help kids with anxiety that I would love to share with you.
What Anxiety Looks Like in a Child
Anxiety can look differently for each child. In my case, I noticed my child had frequent headaches and had really bad bouts of acid reflux. He would go to the nurse at the same time everyday. Additionally, little things would set him off and he would get angry or irritable and have uncontrollable outbursts. He would cry saying he couldn’t help it and couldn’t stop himself. We later discovered that he had dyslexia, so reading was giving him a lot of anxiety. If you think your child may have anxiety, here are some things to look for:
● Stomach Aches
● Not being able to concentrate
● Waking during the night or not sleeping well
● Not eating properly
● Getting angry or irritable, and being out of control during an outburst.
● Worrying or having negative thoughts often
● Crying for seemingly no reason
● Being clingy
Tips to Help Kids with Anxiety
Keep in mind that these tips may not work with every single child. Anxiety is hard because kids don’t understand it, and every child is different. These are just a few things I have learned and
picked up along the way as I helped my son with his anxiety.
Help Them Communicate– Many times kids with anxiety are anxious about telling someone how they feel. They don’t know how to express themselves so they bottle it up. When they bottle it up, you can get the angry, irritable out of control outbursts.
I had to work very hard to get my son to tell me how he felt so we could fix it. I had to model how to communicate before he would do it. They don’t like an audience, so take your child to a room
with just you or him. Let him tell you how he feels, and teach him that it’s ok to tell you.
Model Healthy Ways to Deal with Anxiety- This was a little easier for me because I have anxiety. I have to calm myself when I start to panic, but not everyone knows how to do this. When I would notice he was feeling anxious, I would do some of the following things with him:
● We would go talk in a room where nobody was at.
● I would help him count from 10 to 1.
● We would practice breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth. Do this for
about 30 seconds.
● I would let him take breaks from things like schoolwork that was giving him anxiety. It’s
ok to feel anxious about it, let’s take a break and come back to it when we feel calmer.
● Talk about breaks and how we all need a timeout away from everyone.
● When you have stress or anxiety, talk to your child about how you feel and show them
how you deal with it calmly.
● Practice how to meditate.
Think Things Through with Your Child– When your child has fears, talk through those fears. They are worried about the what-ifs. For example, a child might worry that if they are separated from their parents, the parent may not show up on time. Talk through those things and have a plan of what they could do if something were to happen like that. They could call mom, talk to a coach, or talk to a teacher. Having plans for these fears can help eliminate them.
Give them Confidence– Many times children with anxiety lack confidence in many ways. They may be afraid of messing up on a school assignment or they may be afraid to try new things for fear of failure. My son was terrified to even try to read because he thought he couldn’t do it. I had to build his confidence by focusing on what he could read and what he was good at. Here are a few ways to build confidence in your child:
● When your child does something new, praise them for it.
● Talk about all the things your child can do and does well.
● Make a list of things you think your child is good at and put it on their wall.
● Focus on what they excel in and build on it.
● Do things they feel confident about first then try the harder things next.
● Even when they fail, express how proud you are that they did it.
● Show them that life isn’t about doing everything right, but the experiences that we gain
from doing it.
Final Thoughts: Tips to Help Kids with Anxiety
If you have a child with anxiety, the best thing you can do is model how to work through it. Therapists and counselors have helped my son a lot, but I also had to work on it at home. The
more you work with your child, the better and easier it is for them.