Supporting your Anxious Child

Everyone experiences anxiety. However often it may be difficult to recognize symptoms of anxiety symptoms, particularly with children. For example, anxiety may present as somatic symptoms such as headaches or stomach aches. At times, children or teens may feel like they are not in control or even describe the feeling as “I feel like I am going crazy.”

It can be very beneficial to have the tools to help your child manage their anxiety symptoms. Below are four coping skills and scripts to help your child cope with anxiety.

A) 5-4-3-2-1 Grounding: Using this technique allows you to focus on the present and focuses on feeling more calm through a stressful time.

5: SEE: Look around for 5 things that you can see and say them out loud. For example, you can say, I see a computer, chair, desk, picture, and cup.

4. HEAR: Listen for 4 sounds and say them out loud. It may be air conditioning humming, the car driving by, or even a dog barking.

3. FEEL: Pay attention to your feelings. Name 3 things that you are feeling such as your glasses on your nose, the floor against your feet, or the shirt against your chest.

2. SMELL: Name two things you can smell. The smell of food coming from the kitchen, the lotion you are wearing, maybe even detergent on your clothes. If you cannot smell anything, name 2 of your favorite smells.

1. TASTE: Say 1 thing you can taste. It might be toothpaste or even the lunch you may have had.

B. Deep Breathing: For a child, it is often called Belly Breathing. The child may place her hand on her stomach or use an item such as bubbles.

a. Close your eyes and pretend your belly is a balloon. Breath in and make the balloon bigger. Now breathe out, making the balloon smaller. Now, let’s try it again. Breathe in.. 1.2.3.4.5. Now breathe out, 5.4.3.2.1. Pay attention to your belly as you continue to take belly breaths.

C. Create a relaxation spot: Create a space for your child that allows them to calm down. Find a spot in the house that is cozy. For example, identify a blanket, pillow, or a comfy chair that helps them to feel safe. Add items to space that promotes calming. For example, use a book, favorite stuffed animal, or stress ball. Explain to your child how to use the relaxation spot and practice it. When you see your child is beginning to feel more anxious, give them a reminder to use their relaxation spot.

D. Guided Imagery: Another relaxation technique that may be beneficial is guided imagery. This technique allows your child to sit or lie down and imagine a favorite, peaceful space. The space may be a beach, park, or somewhere else they may find relaxing. You may find scripts you use online or even apps that contain guided imagery. The following is an example of the script you may use:

a. Just imagine you are lying somewhere very comfortable and your body starts to relax. Imagine you are laying on your favorite blanket in the backyard. You start to feel the warm sun against your cheeks as you lay in the grass. You hear the birds chirping up in the trees. Your fingers are curled into the grass, feeling the crunchiness of the grass in your hands.

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