Calming an Anxious Child

1.) Assure Them That You Are There For Them And That They Are Safe

To effectively calm your anxious child, the most important thing is to let them know that they are not alone and that you are there to help keep things in control. Sometimes holding their hand and gently squeezing it or giving them a warm hug or a pat on the shoulder can be a good physical reminder to them that they have someone at their side ready to face anything with them. Help them to take deep calming breaths, or model it yourself first and then tell them how it makes you feel when you do that. Ask them if there is something that they need from you or something that you can do to help, or create a silly activity that you can do together to drive the fear away.

2) Teach Them to Acknowledge Their Feelings And Help Them Create a Plan of Action

Sometimes dismissing your child’s fear  an anxiety by simply saying “It’s nothing” or “Don’t worry about it” doesn’t do much to help ease their feelings. Help them to express how they feel first, and let them know that everyone experiences things like this sometimes. Make sure you do not try to cut them off when they are expressing themselves and trying to offer a solution to the problem right away. It is very important to have an active listening skills in the family. Sometimes it  takes time for a child to put their thoughts into words. If they cannot use words, then let them use actions (using hands to show how big or small they think their fear is), or let them show it through art (drawing the thing that they think they should be afraid of, or what they think will happen, or just using clay to show the size of their fear). Once you have a clearer picture of how it feels to them, you can then help them formulate a plan that will help them deal with their fears.  You can effectively calm your anxious child by being extra imaginative and resourceful. You can do pretend-plays and use silly voices so it doesn’t seem like the thing that they is too scary. You can help them imagine scenarios and take turns suggesting possible actions in scenarios (make it a fun exercise in creative thinking).

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3.) Help them Understand the Things That They Are Worried About

Sometimes the unknown makes the thing that is feared seeming much worse than it actually is. Help calm your anxious child by helping him understand the process or what will happen if he’ll continually entertain the idea of fear and anxiety. Explain it in a way that they can see that there is very little or nothing to be afraid about. You can explain to your child using very basic and simple logic about why they should not be afraid of it. Yes, children might not fully grasp what you wanted to say, but it would still matter to them that you did really care about their issues.

4.) Help Them Focus on Something Positive

It can be the result once they’ve overcome their fear, or it could be something that they have already achieved and the trait that they displayed at that time (e.g. “Remember that time when you fell down and hurt your knee, but remained brave when they were fixing it? Well, if you got through that, you can definitely get through this”)

Every child is different. And as anybody who has raised a child or is raising a child learns, not everything works with each child in the same way. It’s always a process of trial and error. Try different things and find out which ones work with your child. Always be there for your child, be ready to listen and always remind them that they are never alone. What is important is that you assure them that they are loved and that everything is going to be okay.

Image: gingerboximages of Flickr