Just like adults, children tend to feel anxious about various things at different stages. For example, some may find change difficult, which causes them to feel anxious when starting at a new school. Others may also feel shy when making new friends at playgroups.
Many of these worries are a normal part of growing up and will usually go away gradually on their own. However, anxiety in children can become a problem when it starts to get in the way of their daily routine.
Severe anxiety can harm children’s mental health and emotional well-being, which bruises their self-esteem and confidence. In worst cases, they may become withdrawn and will do whatever it takes to avoid things or situations that make them feel anxious.
While we would like to protect our children from life’s anxious moments, it is also equally important to help them manage their anxiety and sail through life’s challenges. To help you lead your child through these anxious moments, Renee Jain, an award-winning tech entrepreneur and certified life coach, offers these simple phrases:
1. “Can you draw it?”
Your child’s drawings and paintings say a lot about how he/she feels about something. So, if your child is struggling to let you know about their fears and anxieties, get them to draw, paint or create doodles to explain.
2. “Let’s put your worry on the shelf while we ____ (e.g. listen to your favourite song, read your favourite book). Then we’ll pick it back up again.”
Children who are prone to anxiety often feel as though they have to carry the weight of their worries with them until it all tides through. This is especially challenging when they are anxious about something they cannot change in the future. Distracting them with their favourite activity helps to put their worries into perspective and alleviates their fear.
3. “Let’s learn more about it.”
Help your children face their fears by learning more about it. You can do this by asking them questions and get them to walk you through their worries as best as they can. After all, knowledge paves way to better understanding and empowers them to rise above these obstacles.
4. “I get scared/nervous/anxious too sometimes. It’s no fun.”
Showing empathy towards your child helps to let them know that you understand how they feel about the situation at hand. What’s more, you can also take this opportunity to share with your child how you overcame your fears when faced with the same situation.
5. “Tell me the worst thing that could possibly happen.”
Once your child has imagined the worst possible outcome of their worry, move on to talk about the likelihood of that “worst possible situation” happening. Next, ask your child to imagine the best possible outcome. At the end of it all, ask him/her about the most likely outcome. As shared by Jain, the purpose of this exercise is to help your child think objectively when they are feeling anxious.
If your kids are huge fans of comics, letting them fill in the “thought bubble” does wonders to alleviate their anxiety. More on this and other calming phrases on the next page.