Advice

8 Effective Ways to Help Children with Anxiety

There’s nothing worse than witnessing your child struggle, whether sick, injured or just feeling down. I’ve come across many parents who have children with anxiety and they have admitted it’s one of the toughest challenges to tackle because they feel so helpless. Anyone who has experienced anxiety knows how awful it can be.

If your child has anxiety, try some of these tactics below and hopefully, they will be able to help your little one feel less anxious.

Helping children with anxiety

Anxiety in children can manifest in various ways, and it’s important to note that every child is unique, so the signs may vary. Some level of anxiety is a normal part of development, but when it becomes excessive and interferes with a child’s daily life, it may be considered a childhood anxiety disorder.

anxiety in children
Source: Bigstock

Here are some common signs and symptoms of anxiety in children:

  • Frequent stomachaches or headaches without a clear medical cause. Some kids might appear tense, fidgety, or complain of muscle aches.
  • Excessive worrying about future events, school, friendships, or other aspects of their lives.
  • Tears and emotional sensitivity.
  • Overly clingy to a parent.
  • Sleep disturbances.
  • Changes in school performance.
  • Social difficulties.
  • Physical restlessness:

8 Tactics to Help Children with Anxiety 

The 333 Rule 

The 333 Rule is a grounding technique that engages the senses to distract the mind.

How to use the 333 Rule:

  • Identify 3 objects: Take a moment to visually identify three objects in your surroundings.
  • Identify 3 sounds: Pay attention to three sounds you can hear in your environment.
  • Move 3 body parts: Engage with your body by intentionally moving three different body parts.

By actively engaging with the present moment through sight, sound, and movement, children may find it easier to break the cycle of anxious thoughts and bring their focus to the immediate surroundings. This technique is a form of mindfulness and sensory grounding, which can be valuable for individuals experiencing anxiety or overwhelming emotions.

The 54321 Rule

The 54321 rule is similar to the 333 Rule but engages all the senses.

Name five things you see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. It helps by calming the senses through observation.

Detach

According to Joanna Gioia, MSSA, LISW-S, Director of Mental Health Programs at Ohio Guidestone, “The ability for a child to identify the source of anxiety, figuratively detach from it, and develop a mental or physical representation to assist them in containing it, can be amazingly powerful!”

The following things help children do this:

Pocket Hearts:

Made for little kids who need extra love or who suffer from separation anxiety. Pocket Hearts provide natural, hand-carved crystal worry stones to help with self-soothing. Kids carry it in their bag or pocket and can touch it when feeling anxious.

Pocket Hearts - Helping children with anxiety
Source: Supplied

Worry Bears:

These small bears were created for kids to tell their ‘worries’ or anxieties to. They come in plush, resin, wood, and crystal. They are similar to pocket hearts but can be left under the child’s pillow for them to ‘talk’ to at the end of the day.

Worry Box/Jar:

A cognitive behavioural therapy technique, worry boxes/jars contain worries for the child.  The container keeps the worries, so the child can let them go.  Like journaling, which is an effective therapy technique, writing or drawing the worry gets it out of the child’s mind and into a “vessel” where it is contained.

Counting

Counting things like the number of stuffed toys a child has or the number of different colours of tiles can be a way to calm a child when anxiety starts to take over.

Matching Hearts

If your little one is anxious about leaving you (separation anxiety), then a good tactic is to draw a love heart on both your hand and your child’s hand. Anytime they feel scared, anxious or miss you, they can press the heart. Explain that you will be able to feel it through your own magic heart. And vice versa.

school anxiety - heart method
Source: Supplied

Temperature change

A temperature change can be beneficial and ‘shock’ the body. This may include a cold shower or a heat pack on their belly. Bare feet on cool tiles is another easy option too.

Art therapy or journaling

Art therapy is a great tool for many mental health concerns, and especially anxiety because it gives kids a chance to express themselves through their art. Children’s art is often a good indicator of what’s going on in their little minds.

Professional help

If your child’s anxiety is affecting their daily life, it’s in their best interest to take them to see someone who is trained to help them.

Anxiety is becoming super common in kids and adults. One of the best ways to help your kids is to model the behaviour. Don’t avoid letting them see you’re not perfect. Seeing you deal with your own anxiety will bolster them to deal with their own, or let you help them more because there’s no pressure to ‘get over it’.

Hug them if they want it, tickle their feet, rub their backs, and reassure them that it’s all going to be okay.

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Avatar of Tina Evans

Tina Evans is a complete introvert, an avid reader of romance novels, horror novels and psychological thrillers. She’s a writer, movie viewer, and manager of the house menagerie: three kelpies, one cat, a fish, and a snake. She loves baking and cooking and using her kids as guinea pigs. She was a teenage parent and has learned a lot in twenty-three years of parenting. Tina loves Christmas and would love to experience a white Christmas once in her life. Aside from writing romance novels, she is passionate about feminism, equality, sci-fi, action movies and doing her part to help the planet.

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