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How To Help Calm A Child With Anxiety

Build Confidence With A Baby

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Helping kids come up with a plan to face their fears is Lewis’ job. It’s called cognitive behavioral therapy, and a big part of that is exposure therapy.

Lewis says she once worked with an 8-year-old who was terrified of vomiting.

“We did a lot of practice, which included buying vomit spray off Amazon and vomit-flavored jelly beans,” she recalls. “We listened to all types of fun vomit sounds using YouTube video. We did a lot of practicing up to the point where we created fake vomit, and we were in the bathroom and just pretending to vomit.”

And Lewis says that baby step after baby step, the girl made important progress.

“One of her peers had vomited in the classroom. And she comes into session, and she was just like, ‘Someone vomited in my class, and I ran to the corner of the classroom’ and was just like, ‘I didn’t leave the classroom!’ … She was very proud of the progress she was making. In the past, she would have run out of the classroom to the counselor’s office and then missed school for, like, the next week.”

Lewis says parents can use rewards to celebrate their kids when they make progress think small but meaningful rewards like letting your child pick dinner that night or the movie for family movie night.

Obviously, these takeaways are just a starting point for concerned families. For more helpful takeaways about how to identify and manage childhood anxiety, Pine and Lewis recommend a handful of books:

How To Help An Anxious Child

If a child is experiencing anxiety, there are things that parents and carers can do to help.

First and foremost, it’s important to talk to your child about their anxiety or worries. Reassure them and show them you understand how they feel.

If your child is old enough, it may help to explain what anxiety is and the physical effects it has on our bodies. It may be helpful to describe anxiety as being like a wave that builds up and then ebbs away again.

As well as talking to your child about their worries and anxiety, it’s important to help them find solutions.

For example, if your child is worried about going to a sleepover, it is natural to want to tell them not to go. However, this could mean your child feels that their anxiety will stop them from doing things.

It’s better to recognise their anxiety and suggest solutions to help them, so they can go to the sleepover with a plan in place.

Powerful Phrases To Help An Anxious Child Calm Down

If your child struggles with anxiety, you know the challenge of finding the right things to say when he or she is worried. Its not easy to connect without making the fears worse, while at the same time offering support and encouragement.

Are you curious how you can help calm an anxious child?

Today, my good friend and parent coach, Nicole from Imperfect Families, is here to give some amazing tips on how to respond to your anxious child.

Rather than telling your child Youll be fine, or Dont worry about it, try one of these phrases the next time your child is feeling worried:

Recommended Reading: How To Deal With High Functioning Anxiety

Validate Your Child’s Fear

We heard from lots of parents who say they really struggle to know how to respond when their kids worry about unlikely things especially if the fear is getting in the way of a busy daily routine, maybe a fun family outing or sleep.

“She comes down. It’s 2 a.m. And she wakes me up,” says Amber, of Huntsville, Ala., about her 8-year-old daughter. “And she said, ‘I don’t want to go away to college. I want to live at home for college.’ And it’s 2 a.m. … That’s when I really have to filter and not say, ‘That is ridiculous. This is not a big deal!’ “

Amber’s filtered response was exactly right, says Truglio. Never dismiss a child’s worries, no matter how irrational they may seem. A parent’s priority, she says, should be “validating your child’s feelings and not saying, ‘Oh, you know, buck up. You can do this!’ That’s not helpful.”

Lewis, of the National Institute of Mental Health, has language for parents who in the moment may feel frustrated by a child’s behavior:

” ‘I know that you’re feeling uncomfortable right now. I know these are scary feelings.’ You want to personify the anxiety, and so you can almost say, ‘You know what, we know that this is our worry brain.’ ”

Lewis says it’s crucial that children feel heard and respected. Even if you’re pretty certain aliens aren’t going to take over the planet tomorrow, if your child is worried about it, you need to let your child know that you respect that fear.

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Few things are harder for a parent than seeing a child worry. While all kids worry from time to time, constant anxiety can be cause for concern. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America , 1 in 8 children has an anxiety disorder. When anxiety in kids is untreated, it can lead to poor school performance, substance abuse and missed social experiences.

If your child struggles with anxiety, you want to do everything you can to help. Here are the major causes of anxiety in kids, along with products and techniques that may help your teen or little one feel calmer and less stressed.

Also Check: Is Depression A Anxiety Disorder

Timeline Leading Up To The First Day Of School

At least one week before:

  • Start your child on a school-day routine waking up, eating, and going to bed at regular times. Explain that everyone in the family needs to adjust to the new schedule, so he or she doesnt feel alone with these changes.
  • For older children who having troubles getting up and out of bed, give them a big person alarm clock, and let them practice using it.
  • Ask your child to help plan school lunches for the first week.
  • Create a list of school supplies together and plan a fun shopping trip.
  • Teach and practice coping skills to use when feeling nervous, such as How to Do Calm Breathing and Developing and Using Cognitive Coping Cards

A couple of days before school:

The first day of school:

  • Have your child go to school with a friend for the first couple of days.
  • Tell the teacher that your child is having some separation anxiety most teachers are experts in this area, and have years of experience!
  • Most importantly, praise and reward your child for brave behaviour!

Top 15 Calming Activities For Kids With Anxiety

Everyone experiences anxiety at some point or another. Children too can experience anxiety. It is actually quite normal for young kids to have certain fears such as being scared of the dark or loud noises. However, your child might be suffering from anxiety if these fears start to interfere with his/her daily functioning.

Read Also: Do Adhd Meds Help With Anxiety

What Does An Anxiety Disorder Look Like In Young Children

Depending on the type of anxiety, there are a range of physical, psychological and behavioral indications. With toddlers and young children, parents may notice increased irritability, excessive crying, tantrums as well as more difficulty self-soothing or self-regulating. Young children may exhibit regressive behaviors such as bed-wetting or excessive clinginess. Children with anxiety disorders may experience stomach and headaches, frequent bathroom urges, rapid breathing, chest pains, shortness of breath, nausea and vomiting, poor appetite, muscle aches and tension and sleeping difficulties. Other indicators are: hypervigilance, frequent reassurance seeking, feeling overwhelmed by new experiences avoiding situations– school, people and places, events, social gatherings– pretty much anything that triggers or fuels their anxiety.

Talk To Your Child About Their Worries

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Start a conversation with your child by asking them to express their feelings about their worries. Simply telling a child not to worry or to stop thinking about their problems is neither supportive nor validating. Its better to reassure your child that its okay for them to be scared, and emphasize that you will be there to help them every step of the way.

If your child has difficulty explaining how they feel, ask them to communicate this in the form of a story. By stepping outside of themselves, your child may feel more comfortable and better able to describe their feelings and emotions.

Also Check: What Medication Helps Anxiety And Stress

Be Supportive But Not Controlling

The key is to help your child manage their anxiety but not be too overprotective in an attempt to eliminate it. By listening attentively and expressing empathy, youre already providing a great deal of support.

You can also talk through ways of handling different situations. If your child has , for example, and was at a friends house and feeling worried about getting back home, brainstorm appropriate responses. Your child could ask the friends mom what time youll be picking them up, for example, or they could ask the mom to call you to find out what time youll be there. Having strategies like these in place can help reassure your child and reduce feelings of anxiety.

Q How Is Childhood Anxiety Diagnosed

Childhood anxiety disorders are diagnosed through interviews or surveys with the child and their caregivers. If needed, educators, other caregivers or family members can provide additional insight.

An evaluation can be performed by one of many mental health providers, including child psychologists, pediatric therapists, school counselors, pediatric counselors within a faith community and child psychiatrists. If you arent sure where to start, check with your childs pediatrician.

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Dealing With Anxiety In Children: How To Calm & Strengthen An Anxious Brain

Dealing with anxiety in children can be confusing for everyone. Anxiety doesnt always make sense because it doesnt always come with an obvious trigger. It is driven by a strong, healthy, determined brain, but one that is overprotective and quick to sense danger, even when there isnt any. As the trusted adult in your childs life, your response can have a powerful effect on calming an anxious brain and uncovering the brave behaviour that all kids with anxiety are wonderfully capable of.

During anxiety, certain parts of the brain become dominant and drive behaviour. This is evidence of a strong, healthy brain switching into survival mode, but when it happens too much or unnecessarily, it feels awful. Responses become rigid the response to dangerous situations also becomes the response to situations that arent dangerous at all.

Healthy living means being able to meet different situations with different responses, depending on whats needed. For this to happen, the different parts of the brain need to work well independently, but they also need to work well together.

To make this happen, the brain switches to auto-pilot and immediately initiates the fight or flight response. It hands the bulk of the workload to the more primitive, instinctive, impulsive parts of the brain and at the same time it organises for the parts that like to take more time planning, to sit out for a while.

How Can We Help Kids Handle Bad Thoughts

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The goal is simple: to help kids recognize that their thoughts are just thoughts.

Just because you have a thoughtwhether its a good or a bad thoughtdoesnt make it true, Dr. Bubrick explains. A bad thought doesnt make you a bad personIt just means youre having that thought.

Thats the message clinicians use when they treat kids with anxiety disorders using cognitive behavioral therapy. Kids are taught to identify their obsessive thoughts as separate from themselvesas a bully in the brain, as Dr. Bubrick puts it. When thoughts get stuck in our mind, they kind of bully us into thinking theyre more important than they are, adds Dr. Busman.

Seeking reassurance is a way to relieve the distress or anxiety, she says. And it works, for the moment. But the only way to stop the cycle of getting stuck on intrusive thoughts and asking for reassurance is to learn to tolerate the distress without confessing, and see that the anxiety will fade.

If bad thoughts really become a problem for a childif they continue, if they cause great anguish or interfere with the childs functioning, it may be a sign of an underlying anxiety disorder that deserves professional help.

Also Check: Can An Md Prescribe Anxiety Medication

Find A Support System

Trying to parent while struggling with your own mental health can be a challenge, but you dont have to do it alone. There is a lot of support online, on blogs, forums and social media. Getting support from the people in your life is important, too. Those people can be therapists, co-parents, or friends anyone who will step in when you feel overwhelmed, or even just offer words of support. I am a part of an actual support group, but I also have a network of friends, says Veith. I am open with friends about who I am, because I need to be able to call on them and ask for help.

How Can I Help My Child

If your child has an anxiety disorder, here are some ways you can help:

  • Find a trained therapist and take your child to all the therapy appointments.
  • Talk often with the therapist, and ask how you can best help your child.
  • Help your child face fears. Ask the therapist how you can help your child practice at home. Praise your child for efforts to cope with fears and worry.
  • Help kids talk about feelings. Listen, and let them know you understand, love, and accept them. A caring relationship with you helps your child build inner strengths.
  • Encourage your child to take small steps forward. Don’t let your child give up or avoid what they’re afraid of. Help them take small positive steps forward.
  • Be patient. It takes a while for therapy to work and for kids to feel better.

Read Also: How To Calm Social Anxiety In The Moment

In A Calmer Moment Talk With Your Child About Their Anxiety

Ask them what it feels like in their mind and body, and what things make them feel that way. It can be tempting to dismiss their worries because you want to reassure them, but its important to empathise with their experience and validate their feelings. You can find more tips on our guide to starting a conversation.

  • reflect on how youre feeling
  • talk to other people you trust
  • remind yourself youre not alone odds are someone in your friendship circle has anxiety or depression too

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