When I was in 2nd grade I hated going to school. I had a good teacher. Kids were pretty nice. There wasn’t anything terrible happening; and yet I chased my mom’s car down or ended up in the nurse’s office with a stomach ache pretty much every day. Years later I figured out that I had anxiety (I also went to the Dr a lot because my parents were convinced it was a medical issue) but I didn’t have the right tools to manage my fears and feelings. This continued to be an issue for 20 more years. 20 years of avoiding life because I was afraid of feelings. I was afraid that I couldn’t take care of myself.
Every one experiences anxiety and anxious feelings, even our kids. Sometimes it shows up as a specific fear other times there is just a general feeling of being afraid of the world. If your child seems to have fears, or they complain of stomach aches or not feeling good it might be anxiety. (of course always get a MD to check it out first before diagnosing).
Here are 10 tips to add to your parenting tool kit if your child seems anxious.
1. Teach them about their brain and how the fight/flight system works using simple language.
2. Teach them that feelings are like the waves in an ocean. They come and go and even the bad ones won’t last forever. Let them practice for a few minutes each day just listening to ocean sounds.
3. Remind them that they are brave and worthy of love no matter what they are feeling.
4. Try to get them NOT to avoid the places that cause them to feel anxious. When they are able to stay even though they don’t feel 100% comment on how brave they were so you can remind them before other events that they have gotten through it before.
5. Give them a special stone, crystal or rock and remind them that if they are feeling scared to hold onto the object when they need a reminder of their own strength.
6. Teach them that the anxiety comes from their monkey mind and most times it’s not proof that something is wrong. Remind them to assess the situation for real danger and when they know they are safe to take 5 deep breaths.
7. Validate the bodily sensations that occur when they get anxious (stomach ache, having to poop, feeling nauseous, feeling disconnected, rapid heartbeat, and fast breathing) and teach them to accept what they are experiencing while learning to relax.
8. Find time for fun with them and NOT with them
9. Find a physical activity they love to do
10. Make sure they are eating healthy balanced foods at regular intervals.
Anxiety feels terrible and if you think that it’s limiting your child’s joy in life don’t hesitate to get some outside help. I am living proof that suffering from anxiety CAN be cured without medication or years of therapy.
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In the comments please feel free to share other ways you deal with anxious feelings. I love hearing from you!
Jennifer Bronsnick, MSW, LCSW is passionate about supporting moms to be resilient. As a mother of three daughters under 8 and a survivor of postpartum depression and anxiety Jennifer knows exactly how challenging motherhood can be. She also knows that there is hope for all of us and with accurate information, support and inspiration that mothers and families can thrive.
Jennifer’s years of clinical experience as a social worker and her own personal journey gives her the unique ability to guide other moms on their path to health and wellness. You can also learn more about Jennifer, the services she offers and purchase her books on maternal self-care at www.themindfulfamily.com/jennifer.