help your child with anxiety

How to Help Your Child With Anxiety

Do you want to know how to help your child with anxiety? As parents, it’s difficult to see our children struggle with anxious feelings and emotions. Anxiety as a whole is a scary emotion for adults, let alone children. Because of this, I felt that a blog helping parents to see the signs of anxiety and learning how to help their children through the emotions would be beneficial for everyone.

First, let’s start with what anxiety is. The Child Mind Institute describes anxiety as, “a feeling of extreme worry or unease.” These can range from anxiety in social situations, to separation anxiety, to attending new environments, to worrying about something dangerous might happen.

For example, the Child Mine Institute describes the warning signs of anxiety exhibited by children:

  • Trouble sleeping 
  • Complaining about stomachaches or other physical problems 
  • Avoiding certain situations 
  • Being clingy around parents or caregivers 
  • Trouble concentrating in class or being very fidgety 
  • Tantrums 
  • Being very self-conscious
  • Restlessness 
  • Feeling on edge 
  • Feeling tired much of the time 
  • Problems concentrating 
  • Feeling angry 

Steps to Do When Signs of Anxiety Appear

  1. It is important to remain calm yourself. Your child or teenager will only increase their anxiety level if he or she sees their parent or caregiver cannot control their emotions. They need to see that there is a constant in the situation, and all too often, the constant they are searching for is found with their parents or caregivers.
  2. Make sure the child is safe and that they feel safe too. If there is any sort of danger, be sure to call for help immediately. However, if your child is safe, it is important to remind them that they are indeed safe and that they can express their emotions to you.
  3. Take a moment to breathe. It may feel strange to both of you, but slowing your breathing calms your mind and body down in order to function at a more level state. By lowering their blood pressure and fight or flight response, the brain can come back “online” in order to rationalize their thought process.
  4. See if your child will share what they are feeling and why they feel that way. They may not know or be able to do this, but it is important that they feel heard, seen and understood. Only when you know what triggered their anxiety, will you be able to guide them toward calming their emotions.
  5. Validate his or her feelings and listen. Sometimes children or teenagers simply want someone to listen to them (with little to no response). Always make eye contact so they know you are actively listening and validate their feelings with your body language or your words. Avoid statements like “calm down” or “it’s going to be ok”. Rather, say “I’m right here” or “I’m with you right now”.
  6. Stay with the child until the anxious feelings have stopped. The last thing you want your child to feel when they are struggling with anxiety is that they have been abandoned. If all else, they need to know your presence is nearby.

What to Do During a Panic Attack

Furthermore, if you find yourself in a situation where you or others may have missed the signs of anxiety appearing and a panic attack ensues, follow these basic steps:

  1. Encourage slow and steady breathing.
  2. Make sure he or he is safe
  3. Be present and let them know you are there for them
  4. Encourage counting while breathing to distract their minds from the attack
  5. Focus on an object in the room or try and distract their focus
  6. Stay with them until their attack has subsided

Moreover, offering water, surprisingly, helps some people during a panic attack. You can even have them focus on how it feels when it reaches their tongue and the coolness of it as they swallow it.

Anxiety attacks are scary (especially for young children), but with someone’s help and presence, it greatly affects the length and outcome of the attack.

Medical Treatment for Anxiety

Now, I’m obviously not a doctor and I cannot give medical advice.However, I do want to try and help parents with coping with the stresses of a child with anxiety. According to the Mayo Clinic:

“Cognitive behavioral therapy can help you learn, through your own experience, that panic symptoms are not dangerous. Your therapist will help you gradually re-create the symptoms of a panic attack in a safe, repetitive manner. Once the physical sensations of panic no longer feel threatening, the attacks begin to resolve. Successful treatment can also help you overcome fears of situations that you’ve avoided because of panic attacks.”

Lastly, I know that with my own experience of anxiety that stems from feeling trapped or not being able to breath in small areas (claustrophobia), I had to slowly practice being in small areas where I had complete control to “get out” on my own. That old saying of “Face your fears” is very true. A psychotherapist can help your child do this a little at a time in a controlled and safe environment.

Items That May Help With Panic Attacks

Finally, are you looking for resources to help you understand and learn more about panic attacks? As a former teacher, I felt better knowing that I had a bag of items to help my students with anxiety. The bag contained calm-down tools that were only used specifically for anxiety. I’ll include those below, as well as books and tools for parents and caregivers to help them be better prepared for an anxiety attack. Just know if you do purchase one of these items, I will make a small commission from the sale. This stay-at-home-mama thanks you!

1. Don’t Feed The Monkey Mind Book

Therapist recommended to guide the reader into the world of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. This Don’t Feed the Monkey Mind book teaches one how to recognize anxious thoughts and not “feed” their fear during an anxiety attack.

2. Be Calm Book

Want to learn how to learn techniques that are evidenced base to control your anxious feelings on the spot when they occur? This Be Calm book gives you actual techniques that can curb your anxiety attack when you need it the most.

3. Stress Relief Balls

These stress relief balls do work wonders both in and out of the classroom. They are high durable, tear resistant squeeezy balls to get your emotions out in a safe and physical way. You could pop these into your purse while you’re out and about, or you could have them in your home when an episode occurs.

4. Stress Roller

Do you have an older child who doesn’t want a fidget that looks like it’s for little kids? This ONO stress and anxiety relief roller is a must. It’s small enough to fit in their pocket or backpack and looks like it’s a muscle strengthener. With over 4,300 5 star reviews, this stress roller can be a great help to reduce their anxiety.

5. Shape Shifting Box

This is a great distraction tool that transforms into 70 different shapes. Using magnets, one can manipulate this in their hands while having an anxiety attack and while using the shape shifting box, they will engage their brain to problem solving, vs anxious thoughts.

Lastly, it’s my hope that this blog was helpful for someone. Just know that you are not alone in this journey with anxiousness. Anxiety doesn’t have to cripple you or your loved ones. Find what works for you, and continue to celebrate the small wins. The important thing to remember is to have a support system. Lean on them when you need it, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

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