If there were some simple things you could do to ease your child’s anxiety, you would want to know about them, wouldn’t you?
“There is no more helpless feeling as a parent than watching your child suffer and not knowing what to do—especially when their suffering is caused by their own brain.” — Annie Reneau
A 2022 study by the George Washington University Center for Children and Families revealed that anxiety and depression have increased for children ages 3-17: up 27% from 2016 to 2019.
Read on for five simple ways to mitigate anxiety and stress and bring more peace to your children.
Note: Even if you can offer the best coping mechanisms for your kids, you may still need to seek professional mental health intervention for a child with persistent or severe anxiety.
Practice being in the present moment.
When you are anxious or worried, you are not in the present moment. You are concerned about something that has happened, or worried about some future event, which may or may not occur!
When you are in the present moment, there is no past, nor is there a future.
All there is, is “now.” Ask yourself, “Is ‘it’ happening now?” When you move into the “now,” the present moment, you can quiet your worries, minimize your regrets, and let go of your problems. If it isn’t happening right now it doesn’t belong in this moment.
When your child is focusing on regrets over past situations, or worrying about things that have yet to happen, bring them into the present moment. Teach them to breathe in gently and deeply through their nose, out through their mouth, and notice their surroundings. Have them be aware of how repeating these actions changes how they feel.
Witness your feelings without judgment
Resistance or entanglement in the story of the circumstances can prolong your experience of your feelings. Focused attention on your feeling allows the feeling to flow, to be expressed.
To focus attention on your feelings, first, notice your feelings. Become aware of the location, where is it in time and space. Be aware of the intensity of the feeling. Next, name the feeling; acknowledge the existence of the feeling by naming it. Last, allow yourself to feel the feeling, if only briefly.
The biochemistry of an emotion, or feeling, lasts 90 to 120 seconds
Anything more than that, and you are in the story of what happened. Observing your feelings without engaging in the story through this focused attention exercise allows the emotion to flow unhindered. Repeat this exercise as often as needed.
Learn to become comfortable with uncertainty
Worry is a sign of an inability to cope with uncertainty. When you worry, you are in fear of not knowing what will happen. Wanting to be certain of your future stems from a need to control your circumstances.
Though you cannot control all your life circumstances, you can control your responses.
Learning how to handle uncertainty is a life skill that will benefit you and your child. Embracing uncertainty is a state of being in which you allow your life to unfold, trusting your soul to lead you through life. Step into curiosity, wondering what comes next.
Teaching your child to surrender to what is, without expressing a need to change or control it, will help them move through uncertainty with grace.
Your thoughts may not be your thoughts
Have you ever noticed a thought coming into your head, and wonder where it came from? The collective consciousness holds thought forms that you sometimes bump into, and suddenly that thought enters your head. Discernment is a critical skill in processing thoughts.When an errant thought pops up, ask yourself, “Is this thought mine, or did it come from someone else?” Or, “Does this thought serve me or humanity?” If either answer is no, you can discard the thought.
You are always you, not the anxiety!
Did you know?
You do not have to be a slave to your own or anyone else’s thoughts! You can take control of them, you can change them, you can discard them.
“When you’re feeling anxious, remember that you’re still you. You are not your anxiety.”–Deanne Repich
Teaching your children the concept that you are not your thoughts allows them to select only thoughts that help them to make empowered choices.
Learn breathwork to ease anxiety
There are breathing patterns known to decrease your cortisol (stress hormone) response and stimulate relaxation. Two patterns of breathwork have been identified as helpful to calm anxiety: Box Breathing and 478 Breathing.
Starting with Box Breathing:
Breathe deeply into your abdomen for the count of five, hold for the count of five, breathe out for the count of five, hold for the count of five. Repeat. This breathing pattern is used by the Navy Seals to manage stress and anxiety.
The 478 Breathwork pattern:
Found to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which controls your body’s stress response. Breathe in for a count of four, hold for the count of seven, breathe out for the count of eight. For younger children, you can adjust the hold and exhale time, or simply teach them the box breathing technique.
When to Seek Help
If these, or other coping mechanisms, do not seem to help your child, do not hesitate to seek mental health intervention. A qualified therapist may be able to help your child find inner peace. Let go of any concerns about others judging your child for needing help. Societal stigma associated with admitting a need for assistance has kept a lot of kids suffering needlessly and has been responsible for much pain in the world.
Practice, Model, Practice
Children (actually, all of us) learn more from actions than from words. When you want your child to embrace a behavior, your words are more impactful when your behavior is congruent with those words. Take this list and choose at least one thing to model for your children.
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