Strategies for the Anxious Child

by FS&TS

by Heather Mann, OTR/L

Below are some strategies for children who seem excessively nervous, worried, or frightened over daily events. It is important to ask your pediatrician for further assistance if your child’s behaviors limit his/her ability to function in the home, school, and community environments.

Make a “What If…” box. Purchase index cards and on one side, write down or draw a picture of the stressful/ anxious situation. For example, if a child is worried about missing the bus, you can write, “What if I miss the bus?” On the other side, write down what will happen if you miss the bus (example: take a deep breath, count to 10, my mom will take me).

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Make a “Calming Bottle.” Fill a plastic soda, water, or sports drink bottle with glycerin and water. Add items that float like glitter, small beads, etc. and have your child shake and watch the bottle when they feel worried. 

Encourage deep breaths.  Have your child imagine their worries are going into their body when they take a breath in, and when they breathe out, have them imagine they are blowing out happiness or a calm color.

Explain to your child that worries are like a plant. The more you pay attention to the plant and water it, the more it will grow. Worries are the same way. When you keep paying attention to a worry, it grows bigger!

Physical activity and participation in activities your child enjoys is very important for relieving anxiety symptoms.  Karate, gymnastics, dance, sports, and participation in general crafts like drawing, journaling, and scrapbooking can all help with decreasing anxiety.  They are also great for increasing self-esteem!

If your child is anxious over his/her daily routine, make a chart that tells the child what tasks to complete. For example, make a “Morning” chart that lays out all the steps your child should complete before they leave for school. This will help eliminate unnecessary stress that your child may experience.

Even though you may feel like a broken record, be patient with your child and always use positive language, even if you need to give reassurance over and over again.

For additional information, visit the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

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