Edelson Blog

Helping An Anxious Child

Written by: Robin Showalter, MS, LPCC-S

Anxiety is tough for anyone to handle but especially for our children. Many of the techniques that adults use do not transfer well for use with children. For example, positive self-talk is especially hard for children as they tend to get stuck in their worries and fears.  Here are a few things that I have found over the years that children may respond to. Each child is different so several techniques may need to be tried before finding one or two that work for your child.  

Deep Breathing: Have the child breathe in through their nose for a count of four and then out through their mouth for a count of four. This technique is usually more effective if used at the start of an anxiety incident rather than once the child is already in the throes of an anxiety attack.

Counting: Simple counting may distract the child from their current worry or fear. Also, variations can be tried such as counting by threes or sevens for older children.

Grounding: This exercise takes children out of their own heads and into their senses. They name five things that they can see, four things that they can reach out and touch, three things that they can hear, two things that they can smell, and one emotion. Another variation of this is for the child to name everything that they can see which is a certain color such as everything they can see in the area that is blue.

Drawing: Having the child draw what is making him/her anxious can be helpful to initiate communication about it. The child could even tear up and throw away the drawing to simulate getting rid of the anxiety producer.  

Talk to someone: Let the child know that someone is willing to listen to them and help them.    

Moving/Posing: Movement can distract the child from the anxiety producing stimuli as well as calming them down. Walking or stretching may work as well as yoga poses.  

Listening: Some children feel better when listening to music or maybe just a calm adult who is there for them.

Acting “as if”: The child pretends to be confident rather than afraid, worried, or upset. This technique can lead to the child starting to actually feel the way that they are acting.  

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