7 Simple Strategies to Help Kids Cope with Anxiety
Oh man….what now? You’re sitting in your car in stunned silence. You’re trying to process what comes next. After months of watching your child struggle with a myriad of symptoms, the verdict is in. The doctor just told you that your child has an anxiety disorder.
“I thought only adults suffered from anxiety.” Is this the thought running through your head? If so, you aren’t alone. This is a common misconception and something we’ll shed some light on today.
Kids are just as prone to experiencing symptoms of anxiety as we grown-ups are. In fact, more than 1 in 20 children and teens suffer from anxiety or depression at some point in time.
Anxiety disorders commonly seen in adolescents are generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, separation anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, selective mutism, specific phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Practically speaking, you are probably wondering how you can help your child.
Strategies to Help Kids Cope with Anxiety
1) Get Plenty of Rest
This might sound simple, but it really is necessary. When a child doesn’t get adequate sleep, their body isn’t running at full capacity. Lack of sleep can cause symptoms like irritability, trouble concentrating, and headaches. Those symptoms can exacerbate the anxiety your child may already be feeling. When they are getting enough rest at night, they’ll wake refreshed and better able to tackle whatever the day throws their way.
2) Balanced Meals and Snacks
Like getting plenty of sleep, it’s important to fuel your child’s body with healthy food and make sure they stay hydrated. You’ve heard the term “hangry”. It’s a thing. Even for people who don’t have the added challenge of an anxiety disorder.
3) Stay Active
As famous (fictional) lawyer Elle Woods once said, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy…..” We don’t need to finish the quote because the rest isn’t relevant here. All joking aside though, our favorite rom-com actress is right. Staying active does release happy chemicals into the brain and is scientifically proven to reduce symptoms of anxiety.
4) Knowledge is Power
Knowledge is power, and having a sense of control can really help kids who struggle with feeling like EVERYTHING is out of their control at any given moment. This doesn’t have to be complicated. You can implement a simple “morning meeting” over breakfast where, as a family, you discuss everyone’s plans for the day. This gives your child time to process new information and helps set them up for success.
5) Know your Child’s Triggers
This is so key. Not everyone has the same triggers. Yet, if you’ll pay close attention, you’ll start to see that certain things stress your child out again and again. One way to figure this out is for you (or your child) to keep a simple journal logging symptoms of anxiety along with the date/time and any other pertinent information. Over time, you’ll start to see some patterns emerge. Once you do, you can put together a plan of action.
Again, knowledge is power.
6) Take up a Hobby
Idle hands make fretful minds. A child with anxiety struggles with idle time because their thoughts can spiral quickly, leading to feelings of overwhelm. It’s important to find a hobby to keep stressful thoughts at bay and replace those with things that make us happy. A hobby can be anything your child enjoys - reading, painting, playing a musical instrument, sports - the sky is the limit!
7) Find an Outlet
Lastly, we can’t avoid stress. It’s imperative to teach our kids to work through their feelings. This can be done in many ways. Your child might choose to journal, talk to a trusted friend or mentor, pray/meditate, or even go for a walk. Whatever method they use, make sure they know that you are their safe space. That they can come to you at any time with any problem. This will go a long way in building their confidence and strengthening the bond between you.
At the end of the day, finding ways to cope with anxiety is crucial for your child’s mental health. It’s normal for your child to experience stress occasionally. In fact, stress is a healthy reaction in certain situations. Knowing how to deal is key. However, when symptoms start to affect your child’s day-to-day routine, it’s time to take action.
It’s important that if you suspect your child is struggling with an anxiety disorder to see their primary care provider and have them properly evaluated. The symptoms of anxiety can overlap with those of other common diagnoses like ADHD, SPD, and even autism. The more you know, the better you are able to help them (and later equip them to help themselves).
Here at Ivy Wild Kids, we want to empower you to give your kids the tools they need to be happy and successful.
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