Five Strategies to Reduce Anxiety
The world looks different through the eyes of a child. Some things that an adult may be able to overcome with ease may seem like an insurmountable mountain to a child. Statistics Canada reveals that in 2013 about “2.6 percent of Canadians aged 15 and older reported symptoms consistent with generalized anxiety disorder.” That’s about 900,000 people.
The process of helping your child employ strategies to reduce anxiety begins with understanding the symptoms. It then requires using the strategies outlined in this article to provide your child with the necessary support.
Anxiety is a normal human emotion. Some children have severe anxiety disorders, such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). However, it is more common for children to experience episodes of general anxiety. Common symptoms associated with this type of anxiety include:
- Above average worrying for several weeks
- Difficulty sleeping which results in lethargy throughout the day
- Restlessness during the daytime
- Difficulty concentrating
Try Renee Jain’s FEEL Method
Renee Jain is the Chief Storyteller at GoZen.com, an anxiety relief program for kids. She created what she dubs the FEEL method to help children deal with anxiety.
Freeze: Stop and guide your child through some deep breathing exercises.
Empathize: Assure your child that you understand what he or she is going through.
Evaluate: Work with your child to create possible solutions after calmness has been established.
Let Go: Don’t feel guilty. Just do what you can to help your child work through this situation.
Teach Your Child Critical Thinking
Teach your child to carefully look at each worrying thought. What evidence is there to support this thought? What evidence is there that goes against this thought? Encourage your child to look at both sides of a situation and develop the mindset that things are not as bad as they seem.
Teach Your Child to Get Rid of Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTS)
Dr. Jeffrey Bernstein recommends having children use drawings of ants to record their negative thoughts. He then says that children should be taught to rephrase these negative thoughts into more helpful and positive thoughts. For instance, your child may write, “I’m not good at anything.” This could be rephrased to say, “I’m not good at this now, but I can become better at it with more practice.”
Create a “Things that Went Right Today” List
Dr. Bernstein also recommends having the child write all the good things that happened at school that day. It is sometimes so easy to focus on the negative that your child may overlook the good that happens. Writing this list can help your child view life more optimistically and live in the present. The lists can eventually create a success journal.
Encourage Your Child to Develop Self-Validation
Some anxiety occurs because of a desire to meet other people’s expectations. Trying to consistently please others is a tiring and frustrating experience. Help your child understand that his or her personal standards are what matters most. Help your child set realistic expectations and focus on meeting those expectations instead of the expectations set by others.
Anxiety is a condition that can be controlled. These strategies can be used to help them reduce their anxiety. Take the time to help your child understand how to effectively use each strategy.