December 3, 2020

Counseling for Anxious Children: Practical Steps Parents Can Take at Home

Watching your child deal with anxiety can be hard. Here are some practical steps to take at home.

Children are born naturally curious creatures-- going from one hobby to another and making friends and alliances—but they can also be anxious. Like adults, children can feel anxiety for several reasons, becoming more problematic as it takes over their thoughts and affects their everyday life. Anxiety is a part of life, for kids and adults.  For some people, there comes a time when anxiety becomes overbearing, ruining the joy of everyday life. Some common issues that trigger anxiety in children are not so different from what triggers anxiety in adults.  

Often childhood anxiety starts or is triggered by:

• The loss of a loved one. It could be a parent, sibling, relative, pet, or close friend. 

• Moving to another location or changing schools. 

• Parents’ divorce or separation.

• Bullying. 

• Struggling with school work.

• Separation anxiety

• Traumatic experience.

• Arguments/conflict at home.

What does anxiety look like in children?

Anxiety is a feeling of uneasiness, nervousness, and apprehension as a reaction to occurrences or happenings that do not pose a threat. Anxiousness in children can change their behavior, disrupt their social life, and affect their school work, and even wellbeing. There are several signs of anxiety your child may be experiencing, and as a parent, it is imperative to notice these signs. Some of these anxiety signs could include:

Physical symptoms of anxiety:

• Panic attacks, which can involve having a racing heart, shallow or hurried breathing, sweating, or shaking.

• Feeling sick.

• Experiencing dryness in the mouth.

• Tense muscles and wobbly legs.

• Diarrhea, or incessant urination.

Emotional and Psychological symptoms:

• Withdrawing or isolating themselves from their social life.

• Repeating predictable behaviors or actions, frequent and infrequent eating.

• Low-self esteem. 

• Difficulty in concentrating at school or home.

• Clinginess, anger, or tears outbursts.

• Frequent worry about being unable to cope.

Anxiety is the most common mental health condition among children. Anxiousness in children may persist in the absence of treatment.  How can you help your child? There are practical steps you can take to counsel your anxious child at home.

Five practical steps to take at home when your child is anxious 

Anxiousness in children may be overwhelming, but with these practical steps, you can help your child overcome it.

  1. Learn to calm your child with relaxation techniques: The first practical step you can take, as a parent, to counsel your anxious child is to make them relax. You can practice simple relaxation techniques with your child by taking deep and slow breaths and breathing in and out for a couple of minutes. This relaxation technique will help your child focus on the present. Distraction is another relaxation technique that can direct your child’s attention away from his/her anxiety. You can play a game, solve a puzzle, or draw.
  2. Support your child to talk to you: The first step in counseling is talking. Create an atmosphere that would be encouraging your child to tell you about their fears, worries, or concerns.
  3. Write it down: Anxious children may keep their anxious thoughts to themselves, which can be unhealthy. Motivate your child to write about their thoughts, feelings, and worries during the day. You can go over the written notes with your child, preferably at night, and address each concern, feeling, and worry for reassurance.  
  4. Maintain a familiar daily routine: Develop a daily routine with your child. The routine could include watching sunrise/sunset, preparing breakfast together, eating meals together, having frequent discussions at any time of the day, or going for walks together. A sense of familiarity in your child’s daily life would make them secure.
  5. Build confidence: Build confidence by empowering your child to talk back to their anxiety. Teach them powerful and motivating statements to say when they are anxious.

We at Open Arms have licensed counselors that can help you and your children navigate anxiety using  a combination of therapy techniques that work.  Call us today or schedule an appointment today.