Worry is also known as stress, fear and anxiety. Without the tools to address anxious feelings, they can easily become overwhelming and for some people, even debilitating. Anxiety can be a problem for both kids and adults. In fact, anxiety disorders affect 18% of the population according to the National Institute of Mental Health. That is why I am happy to have best-selling authors and social-emotional learning experts, Nadine Briggs, Director of Simply Social Kids, and Donna Shea, Founder of The Peter Pan Center for Social & Emotional Growth, to share with us a guest post on how to help a child with anxiety feel successful.
Briggs and Shea specialize in providing easy to implement, actionable tips that assist children in overcoming anxiety and attaining, maintaining and sustaining improved social skills. You can learn more abut Briggs and Shea and read more of their tips at howtomakeandkeepfriends.com.
Helping A Child With Anxiety Feel Successful
Note: If your child has serious anxiety issues, please do not look to this post for medical advice. Please see a medical professional.
Our society predominantly focuses on a child’s success in two areas- school and sports. But what if your child is one of those kids that struggle in these arenas? There are children who are bright and active, but high levels of anxiety or other specific need may make it difficult for a child to tolerate a classroom environment or participate in team sports. These children are not only hampered academically and socially, but also emotionally. How do you help a child overcome his or her anxiety, sense of failure or lowered self-esteem when he or she compares him or herself to the rest of the pack? Well, here are three simple tips for how to help a child with anxiety feel successful.
Consider alternative educational environments.
Despite everyone’s best efforts, sometimes public school does not work for a child. Sometimes the public-school system can provide a placement in an alternative setting, or you can consider charter schools, private school, homeschooling, and now there are virtual online opportunities that didn’t exist in the past. Think creatively.
Check out individual sports or activities.
You may have had your child try team sports, dreamt of being the soccer mom and hanging out with other moms, or hoped your child will be a football star the way you were in school. Team sports and pressure to win may be a cause of anxiety for some children. He or she may excel at or be more interested in skateboarding, golf or even fencing. Karate or some other form of martial arts can also do wonders or an anxious child and give him or her a sense of control and ways to focus his or her anxious brain.
Help your child find his or her “awesome.”
It could be theater, playing an instrument, sewing, cooking, art, taking care of animals, gardening, woodworking, or a host of other things. Let your child lead the way, and if he or she seems lost or uninterested, keep trying different things until you discover what it is that makes your child shine.
A great activity that you can do with a child who may be struggling with anxiety, a sense of failure or self-esteem issues is to encourage him or her to create a True List. Have your child write down all the good things he or she knows to be true about him or herself. Maybe he or she is honest, kind, silly, caring and kind. Have your child keep that list in his or her pocket or backpack as a reminder on tough days just how terrific he or she is.
There are more activities and ideas for how to help a child with anxiety in the workbook, “I Feel Worried: Tips for Kids on Overcoming Anxiety” by Briggs and Shea. I have included my affiliate link to the book on Amazon below:
The above tips mostly focus on how to help a child with anxiety about their performance feel more confident and successful. They are great for helping your child succeed.
More Tips For How To Parent An Anxious Child
5 Strategies For Soothing Anxious Kids
These excellent tips for soothing kids with anxiety are from Jamie Edelbrock, author of Tangled Up
- Breathe slowly and deeply together. You can count slowly to five as you breathe in, and then five as you breathe out. If this is too much, try starting with shorter counts. If it works for them, gradually encourage your child to breathe out for one or two counts longer than they breathe in, as this can help their body relax.
- Sit with them and offer calm physical reassurance. Feeling you nearby, or holding your hand or having a cuddle if it’s possible, can be soothing.
- Reassure them that the anxiety will pass and that they will be okay. It can be helpful to describe it as a wave that they can ride or surf until it peaks, breaks and gets smaller.
- Pick a relaxing place or person. Ask them to think of a safe and relaxing place or person in their mind. If you haven’t tried this before, agree with them when they’re feeling calm what this place or person is. It could be their bedroom, a grandparent’s house, a favorite place in nature or somewhere they’ve been on holiday. Sometimes holding a memento of a relaxing place, like a seashell or pebble, can help.
- Calming activity. Encourage them to do something that helps them to feel calmer. This could be running, walking, listening to music, painting, drawing or coloring-in, writing in a journal, watching a favorite film or reading a favorite book.
Some other strategies that worked the best for Jamie Edelbrock can be found on www.youngminds.org.uk in an article titled “Helping Your Child With Anxiety”.
Author, psychotherapist, and Youtuber, Jodi Aman, works to help parents gain perspective on why kids are increasingly anxious and one simple solution to instill confidence in them from any age. She suggests helping calm anxious kids by assigning chores. Futhermore, Aman describes the kinds of chores that help kids feel good about themselves reducing anxiety and building skills they can use their whole lives. In her TEDx talk, she speaks about the youth anxiety epidemic, challenges facing parents, and a solution to help get to the heart of the issue. Watch the video below:
I think both sets of advice focus on finding a positive outlet for the energy that would go into anxiety to be able to go into something else instead. Something that will give your child physical exercise and/or mental work and make them feel proud and more in control.
If your child struggles with a daily sense of anxiety from an unknown source, that should be addressed as well. There are many factors that may contribute to anxiety such as diet, exercise, adverse childhood experiences, and more. Please consult with a qualified medical professional to address any concerns about your child’s well-being and get your questions answered.
I hope you find these tips for how to help a child with anxiety helpful. Let us know what works for you!