Practical tips to help your children deal with stress.
On a regular basis, an estimated one in 20 children is coping with anxiety. Because routines have been uprooted and we’re dealing with an unprecedented situation, it’s only natural for kids to experience anxiety at an increased rate right now.
While this is certainly an adjustment for everyone, it’s important that we help kids with anxiety.
In fact, this is the perfect opportunity to open the lines of communication with your children, make yourself available to their needs, and teach them ways to cope with “scary” feelings like anxiety.
Read on for some useful tips on how to help kids process their emotions in a healthy way.
Address the stress.
Kids may not always have the tools to put their feelings into words. Help them address their stress so that they can get to the root of their anxious feelings. When they know how to address their stress, you’ll be better prepared to talk them through it.
Make a worry box.
A worry box is a great place to start. Take a shoebox and let your child decorate it however they want while you explain that it is a place where they can put their worries when they don’t have the time to deal with them directly. Give them slips of paper and a special pen or marker so that they can write down their anxious thoughts and place them in the box.
Once a day or a few times a week, ask them if they want to go through their worry box with you. This will give you the opportunity to find out what’s bothering them and provide reassurance.
Sometimes, kids may not be ready to share their worries with you. In that case, give them a journal. Encourage them to write in it every day and remind them that their journal is a safe space for all of their thoughts and feelings—both the bad and the good!
Practice grounding techniques.
Sometimes, anxious feelings overcome us. It can be hard to apply reason or logic when all we can feel is panic. Grounding techniques are ways to get the mind and body to relax in order to overcome big waves of anxiety.
Make a calming jar.
To make a calming jar, you’ll need a glass or plastic jar with a tight lid, glitter, a bit of liquid glue, and warm water. Squeeze some glue (not too much, about a tablespoon’s worth) into the bottom of the jar and shake a good amount of glitter over it. Run your tap water until it’s warm and fill the jar about three-quarters of the way with the warm water before tightly closing the lid.
In moments of intense worry, tell your child to shake the jar so the glitter disperses. Then, they can place the jar on a table or countertop and watch as the glitter settles to the bottom. This sight mixed with deep breaths is incredibly calming.
Play “I see, I hear, I touch.”
This grounding technique works by requiring us to mindfully place ourselves back in our surroundings and get out of our own heads.
Ask your child to name five things she can see. Next, ask her to identify four things she can hear. Finally, ask her to reach out and touch four things surrounding her while naming them out loud.
You can repeat this grounding game as many times as necessary until your child is breathing steadily and can talk about their feelings with more ease.
Create consistency with coping mechanisms.
We’re all having to find ways to schedule our days so that we stay productive, take care of ourselves, and find times for fun and relaxation. This last one is very important! As you structure each day with your kids, plan out consistent ways to relax, connect, and have some fun!
Registered therapists are big advocates of bibliotherapy for anxious children! Bibliotherapy is the process of reading books that allow us to externalize our problems and see them in a new light. Sometimes, creating some distance between ourselves and our problems (or learning that other people have similar problems) is the best way to cope with them.
At least once a day, set aside some time for co-reading. Look for children’s books that deal with anxiety directly as well as children’s books that focus on fun, light-hearted stories. Consider reading the books about anxiety earlier in the day and books that are more fun (and distracting) just before bed!
Shake out the willies.
Usually, kids get lots and lots of playtime. From recess to after school activities to games with friends, they’re used to exerting energy throughout the day. Since playgrounds and playdates are out for a while, find new ways to engage in physical activities indoors or in the yard!
Put together a playlist of your kid’s favorite upbeat tunes and have a dance-off. Gather some throw pillows and disperse them around the living room for a rousing game of the floor is lava. Play freeze tag in the yard.
Make sure that at least once a day, you make time for your child to shake out the willies! When you get the blood pumping, you release some of the tension anxiety builds in the body and you release endorphins, the neurotransmitter responsible for happiness!
Get creative when helping kids with anxiety.
When you’re helping kids with anxiety, it can be a trial and error process. Modes of expression and grounding techniques that work for one kid may not work for another. Pay attention to how they respond to different suggestions and get creative while you adapt to their needs.
While we may not be open for routine appointments, we’re still here to help in the event of a dental emergency. Go to our contact page to find the phone number for your dentist’s office. Call the number and follow the prompts to gain access to the treatment your child needs!