5 Steps to Calm Anxious Kids
I’m opening my heart a bit here and sharing in a way that’s not easy.
Several of my children have dealt with anxiety, stress and depression. We have dealt with, and are still dealing with, these emotional issues all the way from relatively minor ways like crying jags, being overly emotional and freaking out over little things, to anxiety issues that led to major physical symptoms requiring significant medical intervention and therapeutic help.
There’s a reason why it’s hard for us as parents to talk about these issues with our kids.
We feel like bad parents when our kids are anxious, stressed out, or sad. Good parents shouldn’t have kids with these issues, right?
The reality is, they do. We do. This doesn’t make us bad parents.
Yesterday in this post, Are Your Kids Stressed? we looked at the huge growing issue of the rise in stress levels in kids — and adults — today. Many more children are feeling the effects of stress than the adults in their lives in even realize.
These statistics are enough to STRESS OUT even the most contentious of parents.
Yet there is hope. God loves each of us as his children. He loves us as parents, and he loves our children. While our culture is changing and shifting and this is cause for concern, God does not leave us in the lurch without hope.
I’ve taken the challenge again this year to write every day during the month of October, and I’ll be writing a series called The Hope Toolbox. I’ll be writing more about our experiences with anxiety and depression and what’s worked for our family. Check out information about it here. (Last year’s series was about Faithful Fitness. You can find it here: Faithful Fitness)
Let’s look at what we can do to help our kids and our family as a whole.
5 Steps to Calm Anxious Kids
Pray for your children. Pray with your children. We have the ability to go to the source of all comfort AND to a God who can actually change our stressful situations! God says to us:
Be strong, do not fear;
your God will come,
he will come with vengeance;
with divine retribution
he will come to save you.
Talk to your children when they are feeling anxious. Here are some helpful phrases to try:
- “I am here. You are safe.”
- “Can you draw it?”
- “Which calming strategy do you want to use?”
- “What do you need from me?”
- “Let’s change the ending.”
(For more about these and other helpful phrases for parents, check out Imperfectfamilies.com.)
Honor your child’s feelings. “I understand that you are feeling worried.” “I realize this is stressful.” “Tell me about it.” Sometimes I know I get so wrapped up in my adult world that I push aside my kids’ worries about what to me, seems like little stuff. I have to stop and remind myself how big it is in their eyes. To them it’s the whole world.
At the end of a stressful day, it’s so tempting to park our kids in front of a video or computer game for an hour or two so we can get dinner made or have an adult conversation before bedtime. I’ve done it tons of times! What I often fail to realize is that the flashing lights of this type of media is stimulation. It’s not calming. One step further, depending on what our kids are watching or playing, in today’s culture it can be actually traumatic. Our family has a rule of no TV or computer games during the school week. We allow about an hour (sometimes more, sometimes less) one weekend days.
5. Let go.
It might be time to let go of some activities in the family schedule. Maybe it’s necessary to let go of some of the pressure to get perfect grades or finish all homework. If it’s causing your kids ongoing stress, it’s not good for them, even if the activity is a good one.
Stress for kids in our modern world isn’t going to go away, but with these steps we as important adults in our children’s lives can have a tremendous positive impact.
What has been helpful for your children to ease their anxieties and worries?
What To Do When You Worry Too Much: A Kid’s Guide to Overcoming Anxiety by Dawn Huebner. This is one of the best books I’ve seen for teaching kids how to manage anxiety. It’s well-written (by a therapist) and has specific activities. We’ve used it with several of our children and come back to it several times. All the books in the series are excellent.
My Feelings Workbook by Aaron Wiemeier. We’ve used this with our kids to teach emotional regulation. Tons of activities and a great teaching story!
Time Timer App on I-Tunes — Special countdown timer for kids (and adults) with special needs, ADHD, anxiety, and more. Recommended by our therapist to help with anxiety.
Time Timer (timer or watch) — Special countdown timer for kids (and adults) with special needs, ADHD, anxiety, and more.