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Children and Anxiety: 8 Ways Parents Can Help (page 2)

Children and Anxiety: 8 Ways Parents Can Help

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Updated on Jun 3, 2011

Breathe with Your Belly

When your child is feeling stressed or anxious, instruct her to breathe in through her nose and out through her mouth, focusing on moving her stomach in and out. Connolly says for a younger child, you can try holding a stuffed animal on her  stomach so she can see it move as she breathes. Focused breathing is one of the fastest and easiest ways to slow down your heart rate and relax your body.

Exercise

Running or doing jumping jacks can help children relax by getting their bodies as worked up as their minds. “Then your mind and body can calm down together,” Zager says. “Literally, your body takes over. When you stop, a few minutes later your heart rate comes down, and that's a soothing technique.” Doing some physical activity in the middle of a bout of anxiety can also help your child take her mind off of her worries and focus on something else.

Slow and Steady

If your child is scared of something specific, Huebner suggests exposing her to her fear a little bit at a time. If she's scared of talking to a certain person, she could first get used to being around that person without having a conversation with them. Then she could think in advance of something to say to that person for the next time she sees them. Huebner compares this to swimming in a pool. “When you first jump into the swimming pool, it’s really cold,” she says. “But if you stay there awhile, you get used to it.” Slowly getting your child acclimated to things that tend to make her worried or anxious can be an effective way to help her get over her anxieties, but be sure not too push the issue too much, as that can add to her anxiety at times. Take things slowly and make sure she's comfortable.

Practice Journaling

Get your child a notebook and, the next time she’s anxious, have her spend 10 or 15 minutes writing about what’s bothering her. Don’t force her to share if she's not feeling up to it. She doesn’t even have to keep the journal when all is said and done. It’s the act of writing that helps to quell the anxiety and let your child work through what's worrying her.  “A lot of times, anxiety can be a kind of unfocused mass,” Zager says. “Writing it can help put some shape and form to it.”

Show Empathy

Parents, this one’s for you! The next time your child is feeling anxious, be sure to acknowledge that she's experiencing something real. Telling her to just get over whatever she's feeling is never the solution. “They can’t just stop it,” Connolly says. “If they could, they would.”

Reward your child for trying to confront her fears. This is a big step for her, and even the tiniest efforts should be acknowledged positively in some way. This will give your child even more motivation for continuing to work through her anxieties.

A visit to a therapist may be in order if coping techniques aren’t enough. If your child’s anxiety is keeping her from concentrating in class or enjoying friends and family, a psychologist can provide that extra help in addressing her anxieties. “The main thing for parents to consider is whether anxiety is interfering with a child’s life and ability to do things that most kids their age do,” Huebner says.

At the end of the day, being there for your child by supporting her when she needs help while still allowing her to work through some things on her own is sure-fire way to help work through those worries, whatever they may be.

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