Do you believe your child has issues with anxiety or stress? Kids are supposed to be carefree, right? In today’s world, stress and anxiety are common in everyone—including children. There are many things we can do as parents and adults working with children that can help an anxious kid manage things better.
First, it helps if you can determine the triggers that may be contributing to creating an anxious kid:
1. Stressful Environment-Is the home and/or family experiencing stress? While it may seem obvious, it is important to notice how much stress is going on around your child. Children are very sensitive and often pick up on the slightest bit of tension (especially those that are more sensitive!) Think about how you can sense if you walk into a room and can immediately tell two people were arguing—there is a tension in the air. Children are very adept at picking up on our energy!
a. Be aware of the level of stress your child is exposed to and try to limit it as much as possible.
b. Make a point to manage your own stress appropriately so that it is less likely to impact your anxious kid. Plus, you will be modeling stress management!
2. Changes-If there are a lot of changes occurring in the home, school, family, friends, this could be triggering the anxiety. Is your family going through a divorce? Moving? New baby? Some children struggle more than others with change.
a. Pay attention and validate his or her feelings. I always tell kids that their feelings are never wrong, though I also go into how intensity and frequency can create a problem.
b. Prepare kids for changes! You can keep it simple and kid-friendly. For example: “mommy needs to stay at the hospital with the new baby so the new baby is not lonely. Mommy will visit us and you can visit her. Mommy and baby will get to come home in ___ weeks.” Allow your kids to ask questions, too!
3. Transitions-Some kids, especially those that are more likely to experience anxiety, struggle with transitions. You may see this more often when they have to stop one thing and transition to another (especially if they like the first). There are ways to help this!
a. Prepare kids for changes and plans. Give them a heads up and timeframes when transitioning (i.e. in 5 minutes, it will be time to clean up).
b. Keep a routine as much as possible, so kids know what to expect. Post a visual schedule so they can anticipate what is coming next. If it is “in writing” then it helps diffuse arguments. For example, “the schedule says that after dinner is homework time which is before TV time.”
Therefore, after you determine anxiety may be an issue, the first step to helping your child is figuring out possible triggers and trying to limit them. Stay tuned for more on coping strategies for anxiety in kids!
03 Mar 2014