Worry and anxiety are often very difficult things to deal with in life, and for children this is no different. During difficult times, it can be hard to work together as a family to cope, but working together can help create bonds that will outlast hard times.
Chris Tafelski, MS, LPCC, CEAP, with ProMedica’s Employee Assistance Program, offers the following tips for those struggling to work through worry and anxiety.
1. Practice deep breathing.
During stressful times, our sympathetic nervous system ramps up and causes us to have the freeze, flight or fight response. Breathing, especially deep and measured breathing, allows the parasympathetic nervous system to activate and calm down the freeze, flight or fight response. It also serves to allow more blood to flow to the logic centers and other parts of the body like digestion. This is critical when they have that knot in their stomachs and don’t feel like eating.
2. Spend time together as a family.
Humans are social creatures, and while teens and children spend time on social media platforms like Snapchat, they need and crave social interaction. Giving that socialization to them helps to quell fear and provide comfort to people that they are not alone. Plus, spending time with them, you the parent can demonstrate courage during stressful times which is double reward for your child.
3. Use positive self-talk.
Help your child make a motto or phrase they can repeat to themselves when they are feeling worried. An example may be “I can do this” (just like the little engine), or “I am big enough to face today”.
4. Set small goals.
Breaking down the worries into smaller parts helps children and teens accomplish goals, giving them confidence to proceed to the next part. Help them focus on parts of the day such as getting up and getting one subject done while at home, or breakfast first, then we can talk over tackling one subject. Help them only set the next goal, one at a time.
5. Help change “if” to “is”.
Children (and especially teens) who worry spend time in the future, thinking of the “what ifs” in their lives. Help them stay in the present and be mindful on enjoying the moment now. It may also be helpful for them to use their imagination to create a perfect scenario where the “what if” is not present. Then help them to come back to the present.
6. Create a checklist.
When in doubt, create a checklist that helps your child calm down. Start by listing things that help them cope/calm down on paper. Then allow them to go through and try one technique at a time until they find the one that works best right now. Coping tools can include things like breathing, stretching, walking, doing a puzzle, calling a loved one, and listening to their favorite music.