Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Strategies for the anxious child

Parenting an anxious child has many challenges. From struggles with perfectionism and negative self-talk to leaving birthday parties early because it's all just too exciting, the parents of an anxious child can be left feeling confused and overwhelmed. 

The Vic West PAC believes one of the best things we can do is support one another and share ideas. So, one of our school parents put together this list of simple strategies that can be used at home with anxious children:

- Create a worry box. Have the child decorate their own small box that they can put their worries into and seal them away.
- Create a worry doll. Have the child use modelling clay to create a doll they can tell their worries to. Worry dolls are good listeners. 
- Deep balloon breathing. Have the child imagine a balloon in their tummy. Ask them to fill it up by breathing in, then let it all out to empty the balloon.
- Counting. Counting to 10 or backwards from 5 can help steady emotions.
- Figure 8 tracing. Use the finger to trace a figure 8 on paper (or use the palm of the hand), breathing in on one loop and out on the other.
- Use a worry thermometer. Ask the child to point to how they feel on a scale of faces, from not worried at all to very worried. Example: http://anxietybc.com/sites/default/files/My_Fear_Thermometer.pdf
- Blow bubbles. Blow away the worries and watch them pop.
- Be a worry spy. Give the child a magnifying glass and ask them to find where the worry is in their body. Is it in their head? Their tummy? When you know where the worry is you can do something about it.
- Create a list of worry words. Give the child language to describe how they're feeling. Just being able to say "I'm feeling anxious" can be a useful skill for any child.
- Be an anxiety example. Remind the child that everyone feels anxious sometimes. Even grown-ups! Demonstrate how you handle feeling anxious, ie. "I'm nervous about this business meeting today. I'm going to take some deep breaths to help me relax." Or ask the child for advice on what you can do to relax.
- Encourage self-helping. Help the child help THEMSELVES. You can't always be there, so it's important for the child to know some techniques they can rely on when feeling anxious.

For information about anxiety, parents can visit the AnxietyBC website.