Try Our Top 10 Tips for Reducing Anxiety in Children
By EQ Psychologist, Smita Arora
- 1. Keep the home environment relaxed in the mornings. Cut out screen time and, alternatively, make use of calm, low pitched, soothing instrumental music or a natural soundtrack during breakfast time, and as your child prepares for school.
- Help your child to learn to relax by helping her to be aware of her breathing. Guide your child in slowing down her breathing rate when anxiety hits, by gently holding the breath for a few seconds between the in and out breath, breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth.
- Talk about your child’s fears. Simply discussing a fear can normalise it and make it less overwhelming. Listening to your child talk and giving the fear or emotion a label can provide the details you need to minimise the specific fear.
- Gradually desensitize your child to unhelpful fears: Imagine your child is afraid of the neighbour’s dog and won’t go near the fence that separates the two gardens. Calm her fears by turning the problem into a game. Tell her you are going to play a new version of “tag” and you will be the safe “base”. Ask her to her a few steps toward the fence and then run back to “base”, where you can hug her. Do this several times, adding a step or two if she is willing. Over time, you can work with her to expand her comfort zone.
- Aim to have a clear road map or blueprint for the day. Outline what is planned for each day and approximate times for each activity. Put it on the fridge at child’s eye level so that the child is not anxious about the daily schedule and can check whenever he/she likes. Make the plan not too rigid but flexible enough to cover what you have included in the plan for the day.
- Use positive, reinforcing statements with your child. Positively reinforce behaviour that is appropriate to the situation and age of the child. The reinforcers could be praise, playtime with a favourite toy, extended playtime, and other incentives and rewards. Use positive, encouraging statements with your child, such as “You can do it” or “You are good at this”.
- Avoid comparisons with other children in the family, friendship group or school setting. This can compromise your child’s self-esteem. To improve your child’s performance, compare her performance with her own previous results or performance only.
- Devise a bedtime routine and stick to it, making sure there is adequate time for bath, a story, and some quiet moments before the lights go out. Read stories that are motivational and uplifting to the child, and relate these to the child’s own experiences and strengths. This helps to build confidence and self-esteem.
- Prepare for the new. If your child tends to get nervous in large or new situations, she will probably do better if you let her know what to expect. Mention that she will be meeting new people and going to a new place. Be positive. If she appears anxious, ask her to articulate her fears. Let her bring her favourite toy or stuffed animal for security. And when you get there, give your child time to adjust, even if it means that she spends some time maintaining physical closeness.
- Encourage your child to work out problems and problem solve independently. If your child is arguing with her peers, allow your child to try and work out a solution to the problem, and reinforce problem-solving and compromising outcomes. This builds your child’s confidence, independence and resilience.
Just by incorporating these simple tips and tools for minimising anxiety, you will successfully prepare your child for tackling the challenges of each day with increased confidence, and help to build resilience one day at a time!