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5 Easy Ways to Help Your Child Deal with Anxiety

worried boy

Lately, I've heard from several parents that they are struggling with how to help their child deal with anxiety. This anxiety is often triggered by pretty common occurrences. Examples of these triggers include things like going back to school after missing a few days due to illness, getting braces, or having to perform in a school recital.

Does your child complain of stomach aches? Does your child get lots of headaches? Does your child curl up into a ball and want to hide from the world? Are there lots of tears when it's time to go to school?

These are all signs that your child is struggling with stress. It means it's time to teach your child ways to manage and cope with their stress and anxiety.

Here are 5 easy ways to help your child deal with stress (oh... and they work for parents, too!!)

1. One of the easiest ways to relax is to BREATHE. Most of the time, our breathing is quite shallow. We only use a small portion of our lungs. To help your child relax, have them place their hands on their abdomen and breathe in deeply enough to make their abdomen push their hands out. Have them take 5 nice deep breaths. Encourage them to repeat this throughout their day. Deep breathing increases the amount of oxygen they take into their body. This reduces their heart rate, lowers their blood pressure, improves their concentration and helps them relax. This is something that they can do anywhere, anytime and without any equipment. (see our handout on How To Breathe Deeply).

2. Another easy way for kids to relax is meditating. There are many ways to meditate. You can find guided meditations for kids on YouTube or iTunes. If you and your child are new to meditating, why not try a laughing meditation. Mix up a bowl of laughter soup. Have your child hold an imaginary bowl in their hand and throw in as many funny thoughts as they can. You can throw some in too! Have them stir it up and then drink their soup right out of the bowl. Tell them to feel those funny thoughts move through their body and make them giggle. Of course, this works much better if you play along and create your own laughter soup. Laughter is a great way to relax, boost the immune system and improve the connection between you and your child. (see our handout on Things That Will Make You Laugh)

3. Visualization is another great way to help your child relax. Here is an example for you to read aloud to your child. Take your time, pausing now and again. (see our handout on Visualizing Your Special Place)

Get into a comfortable position. Close your eyes. Take 4 nice, deep breaths. Feel your body relax. Now, imagine yourself floating on an air mattress in the ocean. The waves are gently rocking you on the mattress. The sun is shining down on you, making you feel warm and relaxed. There is a slight breeze, so you don't get too warm from the sun. If you want to, you can roll onto your stomach. The air mattress is clear. You are able to see many colorful fish swimming below you. Once in awhile, you see a turtle pass underneath you. Sometimes they stop and look up at you, almost as if they are saying hello. You feel very relaxed. Out of the corner of your eye, you see something swim towards you. When you turn your head to look, you see a beautiful dolphin making it's way towards the air mattress. The dolphin stops and looks at you. It is like he is telling you he is glad you are here and hopes that you will come back to visit often. You spend a few more minutes enjoying this peaceful place. When you feel ready, you can take 4 nice, deep breaths. Then, wiggle your fingers and wiggle your toes. When you feel ready, you can open your eyes. (download our pdf version to print!)

4. Self-talk. Ask your children what they say to themselves. Do they say things like I can't do math, I'm dumb, or I'm not pretty? Help them change their self-talk. Examples: I'm calm. I can do math. I am beautiful. I learn new things quickly and easily. (see our handouts Positive Thinking Exercise and Positive Affirmations)

5. Exercise. Take a few minutes to dance around the house with your child, go for a walk or kick a soccer ball around the yard. When you exercise with your child, you both gain the benefits, plus you are creating a deeper connection with your child. (see our handout What Is Your Favorite Physical Activity)

Play around with these ideas. Try one thing each day. Please note, the side effects include a happier, healthier child and a closer relationship with you.

*see our page of anxiety printables to help guide you when working with your child