In my previous post, Part 2, I discussed my experience as a child in school and shared some strategies that worked and didn’t work so well. Here are a few strategies that can be invaluable for you as parents to help your child with anxiety, whether about school or anything else.
- Recognize physical symptoms. Our body will tell us when we are anxious. Our pulse increases, we might feel light-headed, or our muscles may get tense. Talk to your child about what is going on when they are anxious. First, ask them what they notice about their bodies when they become anxious. Often, children are able to identify the signs. If your child is very young or otherwise unable to identify physical symptoms, you can help them by observing them when you know they are getting anxious to see if you recognize any obvious symptoms. Once your child is able to identify the symptoms, help them to use calming strategies, such as the following ones, when they notice their bodies telling them they are anxious.
- Breathe. Deep breathing is such a valuable strategy to use! Teach your child to use deep breathing to help them calm themselves when they feel anxious. Model for them and practice with them. Hands on belly, breathe in through nose slowly and deeply making sure that the belly is expanding–not the chest. Then, exhale slowly. Deep breathing helps to regulate the heartbeat, thus getting oxygen where it needs to go. As a result, light-headedness and muscle fatigue can decrease, helping your child feel more in control.
- Positive self-talk. We all use self-talk whether we are aware of it or not. We make judgements about situations and tell ourselves a story. Often, these stories or judgements can be very negative in nature and can increase anxiety. For example, if a child is getting ready to take a test and is worried about his or her performance, he or she might use self-talk or have thoughts such as, “I’m going to fail this test.” , or “I can’t do this–it’s too hard.”, or “I’m not smart enough. ” Teach your child to use positive self-talk such as, “I am going to have a good day today.”, or “I might not get a perfect score on this test, but I will do my best.” These are just a few examples, but you get the idea and hopefully, can apply it to whatever situation causes anxiety for your child.
- Use a calming object. It can be something simple, like a pom-pom ball or rubber stress ball to use at school to help your child calm down when they feel stressed. You can talk to your child’s teacher about getting something like this at school–usually, the school counselor or school psychologist will have some on hand. If your child would prefer something from home, make sure it is small and appropriate for school. Let your child’s teacher know about it to make sure it will be okay and won’t distract other students. Work together to come up with something mutually agreeable.
These are only a few strategies that work for many children (and adults). However, if your child continues to struggle despite these strategies, please do not hesitate to contact your school counselor or psychologist about further strategies or interventions at school. He or she might even suggest–or you might even determine on your own– that consulting with your child’s pediatrician may be warranted. I hope these strategies will be helpful as you address your child’s anxiety and I wish you the best! It can be difficult but there is hope!
Thanks for reading!