As adults, with the stresses of mortgages, relationships, family obligations and climbing the seemingly eternal career ladder, we can overlook the challenges that our little ones may be facing on a day to day basis. From schoolwork to friendships there are a number of things that could be going wrong in your child’s life, that you may be completely unaware of until you ask! There are a variety of ways that you can help your little one combat stress and anxiety, depending on what is causing it. Sometimes, all you need to do is hand your child a doll to make them feel safe and secure. The important thing is that you’re aware of what they’re going through! Here are a few ways you can help your children combat anxiety:
Build Their Self Esteem
One way to help your child feel less anxious, is to slowly build up their confidence in their own capabilities. Terri Bowman, founder of The Brain Wellness Spa, shares more on this idea:
“To help children break free from anxiety, you need to build their self esteem by doing activities with them that empower them to feel confident and more adequate. It’s important that parents have open conversations and identify what is making them feel unsafe so they can help to feel more secure, whether it’s at school, socially or at home.
Doing activities that engage in mindfulness will also help them to feel more in control because anxiety is exacerbated by feeling insecure. Providing them with techniques to remain in control in certain situations in certain situations is key. What we also have to keep in mind is that children have new experiences almost every day. Learning, activities and friendship groups can all provide different experiences from day to day which can cause an increase in anxiety. These situations force a child to deal with unwanted change or to go outside their comfort zone.”
So whether it’s just starting out by teaching your little one to assemble their new toy doll house, or setting up play gyms for kids outdoors so they can develop their physical skill set, trying new activities will help them build confidence and self esteem! Check out The Brain Wellness Spa on Facebook for more!
Martin Marszal, who runs Frontrunner Learning Centres, a group of educational consultancies in Sydney, shares his views on this topic after years of dealing with the educational needs of children with low self-esteem and anxiety, including his own daughter:
“Firstly, telling a child that he or she is “good” only works when the child already knows it; a child who fears their own worth will not be helped by being told that their anxiety has no basis in reality and is just a “figment”. A parent needs to work towards giving the child a belief in themselves.
Further, it is vital to praise the child for their work and effort rather than for things like “being smart”. Research shows that those praised for their intelligence do not continue to improve once the work gets hard while those praised for effort (and incremental success, like drafting and redrafting) continue to progress.”
To find out more, check out the company on Facebook as well!
Remember You Are The Adult, They Are The Child
Children are meant to be enjoying life, being pushed in their prams, playing around on toddler trampolines and mucking around in play kitchens. The problems of the real world are ahead of them - they have many adult years ahead of them for that! It’s important to not worry them with adult problems which shouldn’t concern them. Louise Plant, a complementary therapist for over 25 years who has also raised 5 children, shares her tips on this matter:
- Know that you are the adult, it is not about having discussions and asking them to set the boundaries and guidelines, as an adult this is your job. This is the way it is, this is our house and these are the rules. Rules do not have to be rules, they can be guidelines. You are the adult, act like one.
- Do not discuss ‘adult’ issues with them. These are your responsibility, let them be kids. Money, arguments and sex are are a definite no.
- Know that children like firm and loving boundaries. It helps them to feel safe and secure. Speak in a kind, soft, loving and yet firm tone.”
It’s particularly important to remember your role as parent and adult if your children are suffering from anxiety due to you and your spouse undergoing a divorce. Cheryl Duffy, author of “The Divorce Tango” elaborates on reducing the emotional impact on children in her blog post featuring advice from family and divorce expert M. Gary Neuman:
“1. Don’t make your child the messenger….
"Too many parents attempt to communicate through their children," Neuman says, “which causes undue emotional stress on them and forces them to negotiate a situation their own parents could not handle. Email is an excellent tool nowadays to communicate with your ex-spouse. It allows you to specifically discuss the practicalities of raising your child without detouring into negative areas and opening old wounds. It also provides a recorded message, admissible into court, so parents tend to be more careful when using it.”
2. … or your therapist.
“Teenagers like to feel in control, and divorce turns their world upside down,” Neuman says. “Don’t fall into the trap of sharing divorce details or your angry feelings about your ex with your older kids. Their own anxiety and need for control causes them to be ‘understanding’ of what you’re going through, but you need to be the parent. Get outside help for yourself, get therapy if necessary, and maintain those boundaries. Making your child your cohort is wrong and does them damage.’”
To find out more about Cheryl and her excellent book, check out her Facebook page as well! Learn how to continue to connect with your children, and help them stave off anxiety even during a difficult divorce.
Educate Yourself & See A Professional
Sometimes it’s good to know when things are out of your own hands, and it’s time to seek a professional’s assistance. Dr Kelly Bowers, clinical director and child psychologist a Youthrive Integrated Therapy Services shares more:
“Seek professional help: Psychological interventions have high success rates in treating anxiety disorders. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) is recognised as an effective treatment. Families that feel that their child is currently experiencing symptoms of anxiety are encouraged to contact a psychologist for support.
Education: It is often difficult to treat anxiety when the cause or reason for anxious symptoms is not understood. By understanding why particular anxious symptoms occur, children are able to learn appropriate coping skills to overcome those symptoms.
Relaxation training: There are many forms of relaxation. The most commonly known include deep breathing, muscle relaxation strategies, and guided imagery. The benefit of relaxation skills are that they reduce physical symptoms of anxiety, and allow a clearer mind for challenging unhelpful thought patterns.”
Another way to get your kids to relax, is to ensure that their bedroom is a soothing, comfortable environment. Picking calming colour schemes and wallpapers is one way of doing this. You can also make sure all their things are well organized to prevent stressful clutter or invest in a new kids bed to ensure they get good quality sleep at night. Check out the company on Facebook as well for more useful tips!
Dr Janet Hall, author of Fear-Free Children, from Richmond Hill Psychology (clinical and counselling psychologists) contributes a couple of her tips for children who want to bust their fears and relax:
“Copy people who are brave. People in pictures, photographs, movies and real-life.
Make sure you have a safe and comfortable space around you.
Find out the facts. What’s the truth?
Learn to relax.
Exercise and burn up the fear.
To be brave you need to be a fear-buster! Take control of your mind and make your imagination work for you. You can be the boss of your brain and the boss of your body, so be brave and bust through your fears! You can use these good ideas to fix anything that you are scared of.”
Find out more about Dr Hall’s book on Facebook!
Mindfulness Tools Are Of The Utmost Importance
Sonja Courtis, energy psychologist and secondary school teacher, has specialised in the education and support of students who have significant anxiety, trauma and emotional well-being issues! Her insights are below:
“1. Allow children to undertake learning mindfulness tools, even something as simple as getting them to sit still for a minute with eyes closed and getting them to imagine when the minute is over. As they get better at sitting still this can be increased from 1 to 2 minutes and so on. All forms of meditation are essential for calming the mind and emotions. This, in turn, reduces anxiety.
2. Teach children energy healing tools such as Emotional Freedom Technique. This technique also known as ‘tapping’ is based on ancient Chinese Acupressure healing known as acupuncture. Instead of using needles we use fingertips to tap on certain points to release emotional and physical tension. This tapping removes the triggers and emotional feelings associated with anxiety. Overtime, if a child responds well, the triggers for anxiety are removed.”
One specific tool that you might find useful in helping your little one get over their anxiety is The Goulding Sleeptalk For Children process. Natalie Oakley from Oak Tree Healing, explains a little about this method:
“The Goulding Sleeptalk for Children process is an internationally accredited process based on the use of positive suggestion, for parents to empower their child to achieve self-confidence and build emotional resilience. It is non-invasive, ethical and safe; and only takes parents/caregivers a few minutes to apply per night (at bedtime). The Goulding Sleeptalk for Children can assist with children suffering from trauma, learning difficulties and also the many stages of growth i.e. bedwetting, starting school, eating issues etc.”
To find out more about this promising method, check out Natalie’s website, and her Facebook page!
So there you have it - some awesome tips from a wide variety of professionals on how you can help your little ones combat anxiety throughout their various developmental stages. Hopefully you’ll find something that works perfectly for you and your family.