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Anxiety in kids: Ten tips for parents, by Rachel Green

Written by Rachel Green. Your smart emotions coach. Helping people turn difficult emotions into positive outcomes. Director of The Emotional Intelligence Institute.

Managing anxiety in kids: Ten tips for parents

Managing anxiety in kids appears to be an ever increasing need, and parents desperately want to know what to do. Anti-depressant medications for managing anxiety in children and teenagers also seems to be increasing. I personally find this chilling. Do we actually know enough about what happens to children's growing brains when they are on anti-depressants? Are there not other more emotionally intelligent ways to be managing anxiety in children?

We must do all that we can both in preventing anxiety in our children and in managing it in a healthy way, if it does occur.

For this article I interviewed two mums. One has four grown children and several grandchildren, and is also a teacher. The other has two children and works with children as a speech pathologist.

Here are our combined strategies on emotionally intelligent ways for managing anxiety in children.

Managing anxiety in kids: 5 top tips for parents.

  1. Read to the children before they go to sleep. Read them stories. Settle them down so they can fall asleep easily. 
  2. Quieten them down before bedtime. Too many children are going to bed after high levels of stimulation, such as watching the television, playing computer games or flogging through homework. They go to bed with their minds on fire. This in itself may increase the likelihood of their feeling anxious. 
  3. Help them sleep well and for a sufficiently long time. If they are short of sleep, or having a disturbed night's sleep they risk becoming sleep deprived. There are plenty of studies around that show a direct link between sleep deprivation and mental health concerns such as anxiety. How many hours sleep are your children getting? Teenagers may need as much as nine or ten hours good sleep a night, and school aged children up to eleven hours, for example.
  4. Allow play. Encourage play. Let them get dirty! They don't need to be worrying about designer clothes or their pretty shoes they need to be playing and feeling the earth beneath their feet. Children barely seem to play any more. Yet it is play that allows them to work through their fears and anxieties, to act out their troubles, to dream, to create and to be in a child's world away from adult worries. 
  5. I was listening to the radio today and there was a father talking about how he'd suddenly remembered the types of activities he used to do as a kid, such as crabbing in the estuary. Then he realised his own kids had missed out on experiences like this altogether. These kind of experiences with you as the mum or dad are still important and need to be balanced with being indoors on the computer.
  6. Work on your own anxiety.

When we as parents are anxious our children learn to be anxious too. Our own anxiety translates into anxiety in our children. They see and hear us being anxious and they learn that this is what people do. As mothers and fathers we are such important role models for our children. Children watch and internalise what we do. Are you showing them how to be calm and relaxed?

If you do feel under pressure and find yourself role-modelling stress and anxiety to your children, learning to meditate may help you to soften the tension and anxiety. If you'd like to try some easy-to-follow guided meditations I have recorded the four that I used to dissolve my own panic attacks. They are available on our MP3 recordings "Happy not hassled" along with some great tips on managing your emotions.

MP3s $29 (US) Add to Cart

Managing anxiety in kids:  Three more top tips for parents.

  1. Provide love ahead of possessions. If you are managing anxiety in your children, is there any chance that they have everything materially but are missing out on connection with family or friends? You don't need to provide them with all the latest consumer toys and goods. Provide them with love, affection, comfort, emotional safety and acceptance ahead of material possessions.
  2. Slow down the pace of your own life for yourself and your children. Don't just rush them into childcare, out of childcare, on to ballet lessons ... pause and show them life doesn't have to be so hurried. Give them times when they can be quiet and not striving to get somewhere or do something, then the need to manage anxiety can fade away. 
  3. Give yourself this time too. Show them you can be happy with a slower pace of life and they will pick it up from you. Give them the space to reflect, to be, to be on their own, and to breathe. When there is less rush, you'll probably also find you'll be managing anxiety less.
  4. Support their passions, rather than making them follow what everyone else is doing. For example, if they have a passion for bird watching, foster it. If they have a passion for growing flowers, foster it. If they have a passion for dancing, put on the music. However, this doesn't have to be in competition with anyone else. They don't have to attend classes or be entered in competitions for it. It can just be their thing. Support their passions so they have something positive to focus on in their life outside of television, computers, facebook, mobile phones and school.

Managing anxiety in kids: Final two top tips for parents.

  1. Encourage children to exercise. Sitting in front of the television or computer doesn't burn up their energy. Exercise has been medically proven to help in reducing and managing anxiety. Encourage them to be outside running around, riding their bikes, playing games, and firing up their bodies. Burn up that energy, don't let it get locked inside. You could join them! Exercise could help you in managing anxiety in yourself too.
  2. Monitor what they eat. Work out which foods help them feel good and which ones lead to over activity or anxiety. 

These are just a few of the many tips to help you in managing anxiety in your children. It is such an important topic  Let's return childhood to our children and have no further need to be managing anxiety.

Anxiety in kids: Softening the pressure

If you do feel under pressure, learning to meditate may help you to soften the tension and anxiety. If you'd like to try some easy-to-follow guided meditations they are available on our MP3 recordings "Happy not hassled" along with some great tips on managing your emotions.

MP3s $29 (US) Add to Cart


NB: Rachel is not a psychologist, psychiatrist or Doctor. This article is for your information only and does not constitute individual advice. Everyone is different. It is not provided as an alternative to obtaining professional advice from an appropriately qualified practitioner. Please seek the help you need in developing your parenting skills and managing anxiety in your children.