According to the CDC, approximately 4.4 million children between the ages of 3-17 have been diagnosed with anxiety. Anxiety can affect a child mentally, physically, and socially. If you are noticing that your child is starting to become anxious, here are a few strategies that you should try:
- Get Back to Basics
First and foremost, it’s important to get back to the basics. Make sure that your child is getting enough sleep. (Children ages 3-6 should be sleeping 10-12 hours each night, children ages 7-12 should be sleeping 10-11 hours each night, and children 13-18 should be sleeping 8-9 hours each night.)
Make sure that your child is eating healthy calories throughout the day. A child’s diet should include fruits/vegetables, protein, grains, dairy, and healthy fats. Try to limit sugar and saturated/trans fats.
Physical activity is also important for your child’s well being. Children should have at least 1 hour of physical activity each day. This can include riding their bike, playing a sport, playing at the playground, jump roping, etc.
In addition to physical activity, social activity is important for your child’s well being. Children should have social interaction with peers, adults, and/or siblings. Children can play games together, participate in arts and crafts, take walks together, etc.
Mindfulness is the practice of having understanding over your body’s current emotional state and understanding your own feelings and thoughts. Studies have shown that practicing mindfulness with children can help reduce their anxiety and stress. Modeling mindfulness practice can be helpful for your child.
One way to practice mindfulness is through meditation. Applications such as Calm or Headspace can be downloaded to your device to help walk you and your child through meditation. You and your child can also participate in activities such as yoga, which promotes meditation and mindfulness.
3. Allowing Time to Vent
Many children with anxiety bottle their feelings up inside. It’s important to give your child the time to discuss their worries and explain their feelings. Set a time each day to talk to your child about any worries they may have. Try to put a name to the worries that they are feeling. Empathize with your child and talk through their concerns.
A child with anxiety may also benefit from seeing a therapist who can help work through some of their worries and help them to face their fears.
4. Take small steps
Children with anxiety are often fearful or scared of particular situations. Work with your child to take small steps to conquer these fears.
For example, if your child is having separation anxiety, set up a plan where you can practice letting your child play independently. Prior to walking away, be sure to discuss how you will always return. Start with very small increments; leave the room for 30 seconds, then return and discuss your child’s feelings. Then you might try larger increments such as 1 minute, 5 minutes, or 10 minutes, until your child has overcome some of their fears.
Although some worries and fears are typical during your child’s development, many children have extreme fear and sadness. If you feel that your child is showing signs of anxiety, talk to your healthcare provider.