Strategies for Managing Anxiety
Worrying is normal! However, if worries persist for your child or if anxiety is interfering with school or home life, consider these strategies for managing the anxiety. As always, reach out to your child's pediatrician if you are concerned!
"Trash" the Worry!
Have your child write down the problem or worry that is bothering them, and then throw it in the trash. This can be particularly helpful at bedtime, when children (and adults too) tend to let the worries flood their mind rather than relaxing into sleep.
- Eventually this can be phased out- the child can just imagine the crumpling of the worry rather than physically doing it
Another strategy to try is imagery. Suggest to your child that he imagine a happy memory, or even think of something silly to break himself out of the worry state. If you can get the child to really imagine the scene, what it sounds, smells, and feels like- that’s even better. This serves as an “escape”, and it can be done pretty discretely, even while your child is at school.
- Self Talk
Help your child learn to use “self-talk”. This just means that the child talks to herself, whether out loud or in her mind, to calm herself down. For example, some of our students become anxious because they miss their parents. I try to help these children use self-talk such as, “I miss Mommy, but I know I will see her when I get home in a few hours.” Or “I am a big boy and I can stay at school all day without crying.”
- Deep Breathing
Most importantly, encourage deep breathing. This can be used with all of the other strategies, or alone if it is enough. Children have a tendency to take deep breaths incorrectly- by just heaving their shoulders up and breathing too fast. Teach “belly breathing” to your child:
- Take a breath in through your nose
- The air should fill you up down into your belly
- Gently release the breath, out through your mouth
- To encourage slow, deep breaths, tell your child to imagine that you are smelling a flower on the breath in. Think about what it smells like. Fill your belly. Then, imagine you are blowing the seeds off a dandelion puff for the breath out. This helps most children take their time with the breathing.
- When all else fails...
Of course, if these strategies don’t work you should call your pediatrician or school counselor for more ideas!