Welcome to What Should I Do? Wednesdays! This week’s question comes from a blog subscriber (thank you), who asks: What can I do to help my anxious child? Anxiety can be extremely disruptive to the daily functioning of a child. The most important thing to do find a good therapist to support you and your child with this issue if you think you need that level of help. At home, I believe there are there three tools you can use to help a child manage her anxiety. MINDFULNESS, VALIDATE, EXERCISE.
Mindfulness: By teaching your child how to take herself through simple mindfulness exercises, you will be providing her with a priceless tool that she can implement throughout her entire life. Mindfulness practice teaches us to focus on the present through visualization and breathing techniques. Some great apps that can help are called Headspace and Smiling Mind.
Validate: When your child says that she is worried about something, the best response is to let her know that you hear her and understand that certain situations might make her feel anxious. It is important not to minimize the anxiety by saying “Oh, you don’t need to worry about that!”. When you validate her concerns and feelings, you are providing your child with reassurance and comfort that she is ok. That does not mean, however, that you engage in endless discussion with your child about her worries. There must be a beginning and an end to the chat – otherwise that only creates more anxiety in your child and makes her feel out of control.
Exercise: Regular exercise for you child can become a lifesaver on so many levels. It is especially important if your child is not naturally interested in physical activities or sports. Exercise must be a requirement – like brushing your teeth and taking a bath. It’s non negotiable. What’s especially helpful is talking to your child about how she feels before and after exercise – help her make the connection that exercise positively impacts mood and brings out endorphins that can manage feelings of anxiety or depression. The more she can make the connection between and improved mood and positive feelings, the more like she will use exercise as a tool for coping on a regular basis.
Thanks so much Rock Star Parents and keep those questions coming!