Child Anxiety and Fear Part 2
Child Anxiety and Fear
Welcome back! Last month I wrote about child anxiety and fear and how concerning this can be for many parents. Today we will take a closer look at how you, the parent, can help your child manage and cope with common symptoms of anxiety. Please note that these strategies can be helpful but may need to consult with your child’s pediatrician or therapist for additional recommendations.
Tips to Reduce Anxiety:
- Provide a consistent daily routine/schedule. Okay, so we have heard this all before. I am not suggesting your daily routine become a rigid system that is governed by meeting a demand for each minute of the day. However, a basic daily routine that includes 3 meals, exercise/play, relaxation/quiet time, and a bed time may decrease the intensity of your child’s anxiety. Having some predictability of what the day will look like can ease their internal worrying and tension. Invite your child to help you with the routine, and if they enjoy being creative encourage them to make a visual schedule.
- Create an “Anxiety Relief Kit”: Make a portable kit with items that reduce anxiety and fear. These kits are a great way to help your child learn new coping skills. You can get a small box and include items that help soothe and calm anxiety. Sensory items such as stress balls, fuzzy balls or fidget toys can be used to give your child something to focus on instead of fearful thoughts. Mints or gum is another sensory item to put in the box. To regain focus and control, have your child place the mint in their mouth and concentrate on the texture, taste, and smell for a few seconds. This technique will help to ground them back to the present moment. Positive quotes, scriptures, books, prayers, notes from loved ones, and happy pictures fit nicely in their box and they can help empower your child to believe in their own abilities. Keep a CD of relaxation music or silly/happy tunes nearby and play it to help prevent fear and worry. We all know how music can promote a positive mood, so having it ready to play can be another tool to use in times of distress. Now, the anxiety relief kit will not be effective if only used when your child is in high distress. First, I recommend practicing the coping skills when there is no anxiety present. Then, begin using the kit at the first signs of anxious behavior. Teach your child to be aware of his own changes in his body and mood, then encourage him to ask for his kit when he feels he needs it. Again, this works best as a preventative tool.
- Take Planned Breaks: We are on the go all the time and at some point the busy schedule can be over-stimulating to yourself and family. Find what you can cut out of your schedule. It is great to have your child involved in activities; however balance is important. There are too many activities in your schedule if you are constantly on the go with very little time to wind down before bed. Try to sit down and think about which activities you and your family can live without. Ideally, have enough time at the end of each work/school day to come home and recharge for the next day. Children with anxiety need planned relaxation time. It’s essential that they have time to do something that calms their mind and body.
- Check Your Anxiety: It is brutal seeing your child display panic and fear symptoms. These incidents will likely increase your own anxiety making it difficult to remain calm. Please understand this is a normal response to your child’s behavior. When we are anxious we project more anxiety on our children. Take a moment to breathe and put on your mommy/daddy hat. When you look and talk calm you are actually speaking to your child’s heart and brain. They will sense security and safety, and this will help them feel less anxious. Using a calm tone also has a soothing effect on the brain and body. The more intense you are the more anxious your child will feel. Have a support system where you can go to express your deep and honest emotions. At the end of the day you need a place where you can let out what you have held inside.
I could go on with more tips and techniques, but I will stop here. I would love to take time to work with you and your child if they are experiencing anxiety. You don’t have to do this on your own! Start by using some of these tips, and if things are not getting better or you have a question about how to use these tips effectively please contact me.