One of the things I vividly remember from my teaching days is the wide range of emotions that would show up in my students any given day…
From joyful squeals at recess to eyes filled with worry or sadness, each day presented a whole gamut of the emotional rainbow.
Over time, I’ve learned that each emotion is completely ok – if we allow it space and tend to it with love and care.
And because so many parents often come to me asking how to help kids move through the feeling of anxiety, I wanted to share some quick and easy tips you can use to provide relief for anxiety specifically.
So try these 5 quick tips with your little one or even use them for yourself when you feel your mind filling with that sense of worry, overwhelm, or unease…
1. Give them a hug
This one may sound too easy, I know. But hugs can truly be healing. When your child’s experiencing anxiety, giving them a genuine loving hug can provide a feeling of safety. It allows them to know they’re supported and recognized just as they are – even when they’re experiencing difficult emotions. Hugs release the “cuddle hormone” oxytocin which creates a feeling of calm and relaxation.
2. Cradle the anxiety
Ask your little one if they can give their anxiety a name. Perhaps they’ll be able to identify what they’re most worried about and name it accordingly. Or if not, allow them to name it something that resonates with them…can even be fun and silly like Anxious Alligator. Then ask them to imagine that they’re soothing their Anxious Alligator by cradling it in their arms and rocking it back and forth like a baby. This helps them soothe the anxiety by tending to it with compassion instead of trying to fight it (which often creates even more anxiety).
3. Blow it out with hot chocolate breath
Breathing exercises can be helpful to provide relief in so many instances! Science shows that when we take deep breaths where our exhale is longer than our inhale, we activate the rest-and-relax response in the body. Have your little one try the hot chocolate breath: imagine you’re holding a warm cup of hot chocolate. As you inhale imagine breathing in the smell. Then purse your lips as you exhale, imaging that you’re blowing on the hot chocolate to cool it down.
4. Draw it out and crumple it up
Give your little one a piece of paper and some pencils and have them draw what their anxiety feels like. What color is it? What does it look like? Then, on another piece of paper, have them draw what the opposite of anxiety would look like. Perhaps calm, trust, or courage. Help them see that once an emotion is on paper, it’s out of their head. If they want, they can even crumple up the anxiety paper and then spend more time drawing out the opposite of anxiety. Play with this process for 5 minutes and see what comes up, always keeping in mind that whatever emotions show up, it’s ok for your little one to feel them.
5. Take care of yourself!
Lastly, don’t forget that children can pick up on and respond to any anxiety you may be feeling. So give yourself the gift of self-care and the time to take care of you. If you struggle with frequent anxiety, stress, burnout, or just feel like it’s all too much, meditation and mindfulness provide wonderful tools to give you relief even in your busy life.
Check out 5 more tips to help you calm your child’s anxiety in the attached guide.