by Sharon Hudson
With the pressures of state testing, bullying, social media and changes going on in the home, many children are experiencing high levels of stress and anxiety. Anxiety disorders affect one of every eight children per the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. The Child Mind Institute says that early anxiety leads to psychiatric disorders later in life such as panic attacks, depression, social phobias and suicidality. To prevent your child from developing an anxiety disorder, take the time to teach her tools that she can use every day to help her deal with those moments she is feeling anxious or worried about a future event.
How to Help
Listen: Listening can start the process of relief for the child. Children need to feel that you understand and accept them even when they are feeling anxious. Stay away from giving too much advice or showing one’s own anxiety. When the child is not in a moment of feeling anxious, teach her tools that she can do to help her reduce her levels of anxiety.
Writing Worry Time: Research has shown that writing can help relieve anxiety and stress. Schedule a time every day for the child to write his worries down. After writing the worry down, teach the child to write down what she wants to release in an affirmation statement. For example: “I am releasing the fear I have of what others will think of me.” One can also have a worry release ceremony. This entails putting the paper of written worries in a jar of water to wash the worries away. Another option is to create a worry box and put the written worries in the box to banish them away.
Visualization: The body does not know the difference between an actual event and an imagined event. Visualization is a form of meditation that can prepare the child for an event she is feeling nervous about. Teach the child to visualize being at the event or in the situation as if it is happening right now. She needs to feel the emotions she wants while she is there and feel the desired outcome of the event. This will create new neural pathways in the brain and the situation will feel less threatening, because the body believes it has already been in the situation and it went well.
Meditation: Teach the child to quiet the mind. Help the child find a place in her room where she can sit with herself and focus on breathing. She can also use this time to practice visualizing. A great visualization to help with worries is the bubble meditation. The child will visualize her worry in a bubble floating up in the sky. As it floats away, she pops it and the worry is gone.
Affirmations: Create an affirmation board of I AM statements. These are statements such as, “I am joyful and excited about life” or “I am making new friends”. Have the child put this somewhere where she can see it every day. She needs to visualize the affirmation occurring as she says them to herself every day.
Exercise: Physically active people have lower rates of anxiety and depression. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, just five minutes of aerobic exercise can reduce anxiety. Get the child out of the house and go for a hike or swim. Make sure the exercise activity is something fun and not forced.
Anxiety is an emotion that everyone feels. It can be a good thing in certain circumstances, but once it gets to the point of taking the joy out of life, it has become unhealthy. If parents feel their child has anxiety that is severely affecting her life in a negative way, seek help from a therapist.
All the techniques described are also useful to adults. As Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” The world is your child. Parents can set an example for their children by showing they are taking time to help themselves.
Sharon Hudson is a life coach for kids and parents. She is a former middle school teacher and a certified Wisdom Coach. For more information, call 512-762-5577 or visit DreamBeautifulCoaching.com.