One moment your kid is laughing and having fun, and the next she’s overcome with fear (maybe when leaving the house or faced with an unknown situation). Anxiety, especially separation anxiety, is a normal childhood stage, but some kids need a little more help to manage their fears. Luckily there are plenty of calming techniques to help a kid calm down. We asked around and gathered our favorite tips on what (and what not!) to do. Keep reading to find out more.
1. Don't reassure your kid that everything is fine. While you may know that's the reality of the situation, your anxious little one won't be able to understand the verbal platitudes. Resist the urge to reassure and instead show empathy. Tell your kiddo that you understand how she feels, and show her that you'll listen to her fears.
2. Practice yoga. One great strategy for dealing with fear and anxiety is to engage in the calming practice of yoga. The poses and breathing techniques will help little ones with separation anxiety or when they find themselves scared of a new situation. These five yoga habits were developed by a kids' yoga instructor to promote calm and change the mood.
3. Help your child problem solve. Anxious kids tend to get stuck on the overwhelming feeling of fear. When your kid is in the midst of that feeling, help him calm down by working with him to problem solve the situation. For example, if your child is afraid of being left with a babysitter, talk through what that scenario would be like and ask your little one to come up with ideas for playing with the babysitter and creating a countdown chart for mom or dad's return.
4. Have goodbye rituals. Kids are creatures of habits, and while they may complain about keeping to a schedule, consistency goes a long way to help kids know what to expect and keep them calm. Having a goodbye ritual is extremely helpful if your kid suffers from separation anxiety. Keep to a regular routine of walking each other to the door, giving a kiss on the cheek and maybe saying a familiar phrase. This helps kids realize that just as the routine stays the same, so will mom or dad's return to them.
5. Enlist furry friends. Family pets and toys can go a long way to help your little one feel comforted and calm. Whether you have a family dog or cat, or your child has a favorite stuffed animal, encourage them to spend some time with their furry friends when they feel anxious.
6. Encourage kids to express their fear through drawing or writing in a journal. Sometimes getting our fears out of our head and onto the paper is a helpful way to help kids face fears. Just the act of releasing the fear can help an anxious child feel calm.
7. Practice group participation. If your kid is scared to participate in gatherings without you, look for a few group classes or activities to join. These will help your child feel safe with other people and help him find a friend or two. This technique is especially helpful if your little one suffers from social anxiety.
8. Develop a consistent bedtime routine. There's something about the dark that brings out fear in lots of kids. One way to calm an anxious child at night is to create a bedtime routine and stick to it. This may include reading a story together, brushing teeth, curling up with a favorite stuffed friend and going to bed at the same time each night. The routine and knowing what to expect goes a long way to help calm an anxious child.
9. Channel the anxiety into physical activities. These activities are a great way of redirecting the feelings of stress into a physical outlet. Daily walks or bike rides around the neighborhood are good ideas. If your kid needs a little more of a release, try a team sport like soccer or join a YMCA and enroll in gymnastics or martial arts class.
10. Recognize their positive strides. Struggling with an anxiety disorder is extremely tough for kids. So when your little one does something that helps them overcome their fears—even the smallest of things—recognize their effort.
— Leah R. Singer
Featured image: Simple Sky via Flickr