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How To Relieve Anxiety In Children

Write A Letter To Yourself

Children’s Anxiety: 3 Ways to Help Your Anxious Child

Dr. Kristen Neff, a professor at the University of Texas, Austin, and a pioneer in the field of self-compassion, created an exercise where people were asked to write a letter as though they were not experiencing stress or anxiety but rather their best friends were. From this exercise, they were able to examine themselves and their situation objectively and apply a level of compassion to themselves that they often reserve for other people. Next time your child feels anxious, have them write a letter that begins “Dear Me” and then ask them to continue writing in the voice of their best friend .

Know That This Too Shall Pass

One of the greatest lies the anxious brain tells your child is that she will feel anxious forever. Physiologically, it is impossible to maintain a high level of arousal for longer than several minutes. Invite your child to sit by you, and read a story or simply watch the world go by until the feelings of anxiety start to fade away. It sounds simple, but acknowledging that the “fight or flight” response won’t last forever gives it less power when your child begins to feel its effects.

Treatment For Anxiety In Children

It is quite likely treatment for anxiety in children will be successful, but only a small fraction of those who need help get it.

Anxiety disorders consist of worry, anxiety or distress that is out of proportion with a given situation and is sometimes constant. Many children suffer from various types of anxiety disorders, with symptoms starting to manifest around age six. Research has shown that the earlier a child receives treatment for anxiety, the better off they will be.

Both therapy and medication are available as treatments for anxiety in children and often a combination of approaches is most successful. Improvement is often seen in 2-6 weeks. Ideally parents, or other important figures in the child’s life, also take part in the treatment.

However, treating children with anxiety can be challenging, as often more than one form of anxiety is present. For example, the child may have a phobia of insects and also have . More than one treatment may need to be tried before a successful option is found.

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Dealing With Anxiety In Children

There are many things parents and other caregivers can do when dealing with anxiety in children. Aside from formal treatment, reducing anxiety in children can also be achieved by:

  • Providing a safe and stable home life including a reliable routine
  • Paying attention to your child’s feelings
  • Staying calm when the child is feeling anxious
  • Praising accomplishments and not punishing for experienced anxiety
  • Teaching positive coping skills and strategies
  • Promoting self-esteem and self-confidence
  • Learning about anxiety in children

Using these positive coping and strength-building techniques has been clinically shown to reduce anxiety in children.

What Are The Signs & Symptoms Of Anxiety

Reduce Anxiety in Children  One Family Ireland

A parent or teacher may see signs that a child or teen is anxious. For example, a kid might cling, miss school, or cry. They might act scared or upset, or refuse to talk or do things. Kids and teens with anxiety also feel symptoms that others can’t see. It can make them feel afraid, worried, or nervous.

It can affect their body too. They might feel shaky, jittery, or short of breath. They may feel “butterflies” in their stomach, a hot face, clammy hands, dry mouth, or a racing heart.

These symptoms of anxiety are the result of the “fight or flight” response. This is the body’s normal response to danger. It triggers the release of natural chemicals in the body. These chemicals prepare us to deal with a real danger. They affect heart rate, breathing, muscles, nerves, and digestion. This response is meant to protect us from danger. But with anxiety disorders, the “fight or flight” response is overactive. It happens even when there is no real danger.

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Anxiety And Depression In Children

Find information and resources for parents on how to help children cope

Learn about recommendations for school-based cognitive behavioral therapy to reduce depression and anxiety symptomsexternal icon.

Many children have fears and worries, and may feel sad and hopeless from time to time. Strong fears may appear at different times during development. For example, toddlers are often very distressed about being away from their parents, even if they are safe and cared for. Although fears and worries are typical in children, persistent or extreme forms of fear and sadness could be due to anxiety or depression. Because the symptoms primarily involve thoughts and feelings, they are sometimes called internalizing disorders.

Use Calming & Mindfulness Scripts

There are scripts you can read to your child to help them relax and calm down. Slowly and carefully read the words as your child listens and follows the instructions. Check out Inner Health Studios list of scripts you can use with your child. If you prefer not to read a script, there are ones that are pre-recorded.

There are also scripts to practice mindfulness with children. Eline Snel has written a great book on Mindfulness with Kids, Sitting Still Like a Frog. Here are the several scripts that can be used from that book!

What you need:

Empty Jar

Ive used empty soda bottles, empty water bottles, glass jars and plastic containers. Use whatever makes sense for you and your family. For instance, for the calming jars the kids have in their room, I used a heavy duty plastic bottle. I didnt want them to accidentally knock over a glass jar in the dark – that would be a huge mess!


Ive had the best results when Ive used warm water – it makes it easier for the water and paint to combine.

Glitter Paint

I prefer using glitter paint instead of glitter because then Im not cleaning up glitter for weeks at my house after we make them 🙂

To make your jar, add glitter paint to the bottom of the jar until it just covers the bottom of it. Add warm water. Put the cover on and shake to help the ingredients combine. Once you are satisfied with the look of your jar, then you can super glue the lid shut so it doesnt spill. In a pinch, Ive also used duct tape to secure the lid.

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Dont Avoid Things Just Because They Make A Child Anxious

Helping children avoid the things they are afraid of will make them feel better in the short term, but it reinforces the anxiety over the long run. Lets say a child in an uncomfortable situation gets upset and starts to cry not to be manipulative, but just because thats how they feel. If their parents whisk them out of there, or remove the thing theyre afraid of, the child has learned that coping mechanism. And that cycle has the potential to repeat itself.

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The COVID-19 pandemic upended our lives and forever changed how we function. Things we never debated in the past everything from hybrid work environments to masking politics have become everyday conversations. And now in our second holiday season during a pandemic and growing mental health crisis, many of us have normalized our fears and frustrations. Children are watching adults arguments and isolation and pain and they too are struggling to make sense of weird schedules and sad feelings and holiday tensions.

As the effects of the pandemic carry forward, so does the number of children with anxiety. A recent report from the U.S. Surgeon General cited that research covering 80,000 youth globally found that depressive and anxiety symptoms doubled during the pandemic, with 25% of youth experiencing depressive symptoms and 20% experiencing anxiety symptoms. Much ink has been spilled over the last 20+ months on the vital role that emotional wellness plays in development and overall health, and rightfully so.

Admit your own anxiety

Take time to acknowledge how youre feeling. Then youll be better prepared to help your children do the same.

Validate their feelings

Be a storyteller

Also Check: What To Do If You Have Bad Anxiety

What Not To Do When A Child Is Anxious

At one time or another, every parent has made a well-meaning mistake that made things worse. For instance, you may be quick to dismiss a youngster’s emotions or label them wrong,” Gilboa says. “We’re so used to guiding our kids’ behavior that we try to guide their feelings as well,” she says. “It never works.”

Pressuring a child to feel a certain way may cause him to hide his or her real emotions. That can make it more difficult to recognize the seriousness of the problem. “If our kids can’t express their feelings to us and know that they’ll be heard, we will never know if they’re experiencing true anxiety that needs attention,” she says.

Other parents may be too ready to accommodate their children by simply avoiding situations that trigger anxiety. That can backfire, too. When children stop going to the pool with friends because they fear water or avoid sleepovers because theyre uncomfortable in the dark, those limitations may add to their anxiety. “It’s really stressful not being able to do the things that other people do,” Chansky says.

If left undiagnosed and untreated, a child with an anxiety disorder is at increased risk of engaging in dangerous behaviors, such as self-harm, substance abuse and bullying. “They develop negative coping strategies,” Gilboa says.

Some Situations That May Cause Anxiety In Children Are:

Unrealistic demands of children beyond their age and capability. For example, infants do not understand death but respond to loss and separation of a loved one by protesting it. Some young children might search for the person in their usual places. Children aged 7-8 years old may not understand the permanence of death and regard the deceased as sleeping. Seeing the loved one in a coffin and attending a burial leaves the child with worries as to how the loved one will get out of the box. In many African cultures children are protected from seeing corpses. They may come to understand death as an emotionally charged situation, where main caregivers are preoccupied in their grief, which can be overwhelming for children. This leaves memories and experiences that are not processed since adults often find it hard to speak to children about death.

The vast body of knowledge by neuroscientists Antonio Damasio, Jaak Panksepp, Allan Shore among others, indicates that we can intentionally build our childrens brains and resilience to toxic stress from pregnancy through the first two and half years by attending to feelings, naming them, and allowing for their expression.

The way we hold our children, look at them, speak to them and respond to their inborn natural attachment needs is learned and stored in our childrens brains.

Read Also: How To Help Daughter With Anxiety

How To Help Your Child Manage Their Anxiety

Outside of moments when your child is feeling particularly anxious or panicky, there are things you can do over time to help them manage their anxiety and feel better.

A lot of these strategies are about helping your child to understand themselves and find out what works for them. The more confident they feel about helping themselves when things are hard, the more they will believe in their ability to cope helping to reduce feelings of panic.

What Makes Children Anxious

How to support your child with school anxiety ...

Children can feel anxious about different things at different ages. Many of these worries are a normal part of growing up.

From the age of around 6 months to 3 years it’s very common for young children to have . They may become clingy and cry when separated from their parents or carers. This is a normal stage in a child’s development and should stop at around age 2 to 3.

It’s also common for preschool-age children to develop specific fears or phobias. Common fears in early childhood include animals, insects, storms, heights, water, blood, and the dark. These fears usually go away gradually on their own.

There may also be other times in a child’s life when they feel anxious. For example, many children feel anxious when going to a new school or before tests and exams. Some children feel shy in social situations and may need support with this.

Also Check: How To Get Through An Anxiety Attack Alone

When Parents Should Be Concerned About Anxiety

Experts note two red flags of clinical anxiety: avoidance and extreme distress. Texas mom Beth Teliho remembers when her son, Sawyer, now 10, started elementary school. He happily attended for the first couple of days. But then Sawyer started suffering meltdowns on the ride to school. “He was gasping for breath and crying, saying, ‘I can’t, I can’t,'” Beth says. “The look on his face was so desperate, like he physically couldn’t go into the school.”

Sara Farrell Bakers son August, 5, is on the autism spectrum and has sensory-processing issues. The boy dislikes loud noises, particularly flushing toilets and the hand dryers found in public restrooms. “He would become very distraught if we were going toward a restroom,” Sara says. “Just being in an environment where he expected loud noises would get him very anxious.”

Childhood anxiety disorders are divided into several types, including generalized, separation, social, and specific phobias, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Though different disorders may manifest in different ways, here are a few of the most common symptoms:

Fortunately, most children diagnosed with anxiety disorders will outgrow them, provided they live in supportive environments and get appropriate treatment. Learn more about the signs of emotional distress, developed by the Campaign to Change Direction, a mental-health awareness initiative co-founded by Aetna.

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.

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