Five simple tools to help your child deal with anxiety

child deal with anxiety
5 Hassle-free Ways to Engage Your K...
5 Hassle-free Ways to Engage Your Kids in the Outdoors, Even if You’re Not an Expert

I’m very excited to share my final guest blog post with you today. In this post I’ll be sharing some simple tools to help your child deal with anxiety, passing on a few of the methods, practices and understandings that have helped me manage my own feelings of anxiety. When practiced regularly these simple methods really can make a big difference. 

Five simple tools to help your child deal with anxiety

Tool #1 – Presence

When it comes to helping your child manage their feelings of anxiety, one of the most important things to do is to help them learn how to redirect their attention.

See your child’s attention as a little spotlight inside of them. Whatever they shine this spotlight towards comes into focus.

For example, right now, rub your hands together very quickly, then stop and notice the feeling. Do your hands feel tingly? Do they pulse? Do they throb?

Next, stop and notice what you can hear. What can you hear furthest away in the distance? What can you hear that is closest? Can you hear the sound your nose makes as you breathe in?

The more important question is, when you were focussing your attention on what you could hear, did you forget all about the sensation in your hands? This is because you redirected your spotlight of attention. 

As a human, for the majority of the time, you will find your spotlight of attention is focused on your thoughts. Whenever you notice that your child’s attention is drifting towards their worrying thoughts, you can help them gently redirect their attention back to their five senses in the present moment.

You can ask what different things your child can hear around them (You can also help to point things out if they need prompting in the beginning).

  • Ask what colours they can see? Ask if they can see five red/black/blue objects around them?
  • Ask if their feet feel hot or cold?
  • Ask if they can smell any smells?

To start with, you will likely have to do this many times, but the more you practice, the stronger their awareness of their senses and body will be, and the more natural it will be for them to redirect their attention back to their senses when they begin to feel worried. 

Tool #2 – Breathing Exercises

Another powerful tool to help manage your child’s anxiety is their breath.  Your child, of course, always has their breath with them. This means that whenever they face a challenging moment, they have their breath right there to redirect their attention towards and focus on.

The trick when it comes to your child using their breath to calm themselves, is to connect with the tiny details of their breath. For example;

  • Right now, take a deep breath in through your nose and allow your shoulders to relax as you exhale through your mouth.
  • Notice where in your body you feel your breath. Do you feel it high up in your chest or low down in your stomach?
  • Notice the slight pause between your in breath and your out breath. How long does the quiet pause last?
  • Can you feel the cool air passing the tip of your nose as you breathe in? Can you feel how the air is slightly warmer as you breathe out through your mouth and it passes your lips?
  • Notice the feeling of your stomach gently rising and falling like the waves of the ocean.
  • Notice your back subtly expanding as you inhale.
  • Notice your clothes gently brushing across your skin. Can you feel them on your shoulders? Your chest? Your stomach?

When you help your child to connect with the subtitles of their breath, you are giving their attention something calming and present to focus on instead of their worrying thoughts.

help your child deal with anxiety

Tool #3 The best case scenario

When your child is beginning to have thoughts of something bad happening and the fight or flight reaction is being triggered in response, you can help them to reframe their thoughts and explore the best case scenarios in order to help them calm down.

This works in the same way as the fight or flight response. As we explored in the previous blog post, when your child is thinking of the worst things that could happen, their body responds by releasing the stress chemicals as though it’s happening in reality. When they are thinking about the best things that can happen, however, their body will see these thoughts as reality, and will instead release the reward chemicals.

For example, if your child is about to start school and they are worried they may not make any friends, this will likely trigger the fight or flight response. They will then start to worry, get upset, and quickly spiral into fear and anxiety

In order to help them break this anxious spiral, you can acknowledge that this is something that could happen, but there are also other scenarios that could happen too. Ask them how they would feel if they made lots of friends? How would they feel if they met someone who likes all of the same things that they do, and they become best friends? How would they feel if they get to go to lots of parties with their new best friend and have lots of fun? Ask what kinds of things they could do with their new best friend.

Refocussing your child’s attention toward the best-case scenario and the good things that could happen, will help to keep the reward chemicals flowing into the body. This will can prevent the spiral of anxiety from occurring.

Tool #4 Look, Listen, Let Go

Although the focus so far has been finding ways to redirect your child’s attention away from their worrying thoughts, worrying thoughts still play an incredibly important role in life. We need these thoughts in order to keep us safe. We wouldn’t want to switch them off altogether.

There is a helpful method I call Look, Listen, Let go. This can help you learn how to use your thoughts as a helpful tool.

As an adult example, imagine you have an outdoor party planned and your mind is pointing out everything that could go wrong. Your mind is saying that it might rain, that everything could get wet and ruined, that the children might be disappointed and may all get sick – maybe all the parents will blame you.

In general, these are valid thoughts, they’re things that really could happen, and your mind is trying to help you by pointing out these scenarios. When it comes to these kinds of thoughts, however, you have two choices – you can either continue to focus your attention on all of these worst-case scenario thoughts, which will lead you to the feeling of anxiety, or you can use them to problem solve.

You can begin by looking at the thought, and then listen to the danger that your mind is trying to warn you of. You can then ask yourself whether the danger is in your control or out of your control. If there is anything that is in your control, you can come up with a plan of action. In this case, you can think of alternatives in the event that it does happen to rain. You can build some shelter, or tell everyone to bring their wellies and raincoats in case it rains and you can have wet play instead.

Once you have taken action and done everything you can that is in your control, it’s time to let the thought go. There is nothing more you can do. Thinking about it is no longer of any benefit. 

This is easier said than done but with methods such as the ones we have already covered, it is possible.

help your child deal with anxiety

Tool #5 Physical Activity

You may have heard that physical activity is a great way of managing the feeling of anxiety. But how and why?  In order to explain why physical activity can be so helpful, let’s take another look at the fight or flight reaction.

If you found yourself being chased by a rabid wild dog that was trying to bite you, your body would see the danger and release adrenaline to help you run as fast as you can. 

Because you are physically running in that moment, the adrenaline that is being released is immediately being burnt off, meaning you aren’t left with extra adrenaline in your body.

When you escape the dog and have caught your breath, you will quickly return back to your normal energy level. Now imagine you were sitting at home and thinking about being chased by a rabid wild dog wanting to attack you. 

Your body will see the images of the dog in your imagination, mistake the threat for reality, and release adrenaline to help you run from this danger.

The problem is because you are sitting at home and the danger is only happening in your imagination, you are not burning off the released adrenaline with running or any physical movement. You are just sitting.

Because of this, the adrenaline continues to circulate around your body, which fuels more cautious thoughts, which in turn triggers a release of even more adrenaline. 

It can be a very difficult spiral to break out of.

This is why physical activities such as taking a walk can be so helpful. It will burn off that release of adrenaline and tells your nervous system that action is being taken. This walk can also be combined with the other tools in this post. 

help your child deal with anxiety

There are many such tools that can help your child deal with anxiety and reduce anxious feeling – these are a few simple ones. If you have found these five tips helpful, I have many videos explaining similar concepts with easy-to-understand practical demonstrations on TikTok @jasonrhodeswellness. You may also find my picture book Imagine Eating Lemons – A Children’s Introduction to Mindfulness a helpful resource with your child.

I hope you have found these posts insightful, and they help to bring a little more peace into your everyday life. As with anything, the more you practice the more benefit you will see. Tools such as the ones above to help your child deal with anxiety are no different.

Take a few conscious breaths right now, and then enjoy the rest of your day.

Jason

Jason Rhodes is a wellness coach who specialises in overcoming social anxiety, performance anxiety, anxiety in relationships and generalised anxiety with mindfulness. He came to write the children’s book Imagine Eating Lemons as part of a much larger vision. He wants to educate the younger generation with the simple tools needed to help manage their thoughts and feelings, resulting in a much more peaceful and connected world. Having suffered from extreme anxiety himself for many years he discovered the practice of mindfulness and life quickly began to change. He has now ended his career as a film actor and decided to focus all of his energy on helping to spread awareness of this life-changing practice. Follow him on Instagram @jasonrhodeswellness TikTok and Facebook.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.