Children experience varying amounts of anxiety throughout their lives, some children more than others. If you notice that you child becomes anxious frequently, there are several things that you can do to help ease your child’s worries and help him to learn to handle the stresses of his life.
According to Helen Nieves, a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, there are six ways to help teach your child to combat their worries.
1) Tell your child to put their worries into words: Tell your child to think about what is really true as opposed to what they are afraid might happen. Reminding your child that if a bad thing happens they can get through it or they can make a plan to help them feel calmer and less worried. For example, your child could be afraid of big dogs. If your child is invited to a friends house, they may worry that their friend has a dog and will bite them. You can help by telling your child to find out if their friend has a dog and if so, to create a plan such as telling the friend to hold the dog or lock the dog in another room.
2) Create a Worry Time: It is a good idea to spend less time on worries. If you do not spend time on them, they will eventually go away. Create a Worry Time with your child. During this time, you will sit with your child for about 15-20 minutes talking about whatever they are worried about. This time should not be interrupted, instead it is a time where you will offer help and just listen. You can tell them that if they have a worry to lock it up in their imaginary worry box, walk away and get distracted with something else. Their worry that they locked up will only be opened during worry time. If they distract themselves, the worry will lessen. The point for a worry box is to help children learn not to pay attention to their worries all the time because the worries will grow. By the time they reach “Worry Time” their worries won’t be BIG problems anymore.
3) Talk Back (to worries): Teach your child to talk back to their worries and then to distract themselves by playing or watching television. Tell your child that if the worry continues to talk to them, to do something else and not to pay attention to the worry. Tell them to imagine that their worries are like bullies. They can tell the worry bully “Leave me alone,” “Go away,” ” You are bugging me,” “I’m not going to listen to you,” or “I don’t believe you.”
4) Relaxation: Teach you child relaxation techniques. Have your child get involved with an activity that is fun, teach them to breath slowly in through the nose and out through the mouth, and try some progressive relaxation techniques. Of course you need to make the techniques child appropriate. Also, you can tell them to use visualization-to think of a memory that they like and makes them feel good. I like this visualization: Imagine that they are a baseball player and every ball that is thrown represents a worry. Each worry that is pitched to them, they hit the ball out of the ballpark
5) They are in control: Tell your child that they are in control of their worries. The same way that they control the television when they have the remote control (they are able to change the channel) they can change the channel when they worry by simply not paying attention to them. They are in control of the worries, the worries are not in control of them.
6) Teach your child to be strong: Being mentally strong is important. Have your child tell you what they are good at and then have them do it. Teach them to be proud of themselves. Gaining confidence is important to fighting worry bullies away.