The day to day life with kids can be a challenging one, especially in our busy society.
Many of us have busy schedules, a never-ending list of errands, and most importantly we still need to meet the needs of our children.
Having an anxious child can make everyday tasks quite challenging.
12 Things To Say To Calm An Anxious Child
And the hardest part, your mama heart hurts to know they’re struggling.
When you’re trying to get ready for school or dance class, and you’re already running behind, you throw out a “it’s okay, I promise everything is fine,” but it doesn’t help much.
When you’re desperate, you might even ask them to please stop crying and hurry up. And of course, that doesn’t help either.
So, what can you do to help an anxious child to get out the door? To feel more comfortable at an outing? To feel a little more secure it what feels like a big and scary world?
Here are twelve things to say to calm an anxious child:
#1: “Tell Me About It”
Let your child know you are here to listen. Let them talk out their fears and anything else they’re feeling. You shouldn’t offer solutions here, you should simply give them space to process their feelings.
Sometimes, we just need to talk things out. Give them permission to talk about it, even if it can seem silly, it’s very real to them.
#2: “You’re Safe, I’m Here”
Reminding your child they’re not alone can be vital as anxiety can feel overwhelming and lonely.
If the anxiety is stemming from separation, remind your child when you will be together again, where you’ll be, who the safe person they’re with is, and why they’re safe (e.g. your teacher Mrs. Smith cares a lot about you and is there to keep you safe).
#3: “This Feeling Will Go Away. Let’s Get Comfortable Until It’s Over”
We can’t always rush the feeling away, but we can help them to cope in a way that encourages calming and helps the anxiety to lessen.
A tight embrace, sitting on a swing or rocker, or using a weighted blanket can help some children to calm by increasing physical stimuli.
#4: “I Get Anxious Too. It’s No Fun!”
Empathy can go a long way when your child is struggling. When you’re facing anxious feelings, you may feel like no one understands.
Knowing that someone else, like mama, also understands anxiety can help it feel less scary.
#5: “I Can’t Wait For You To Tell Me All About___”
This is a reminder that the feelings will pass, the activity will happen, and you’re excited to hear about it. Excitement can be contagious.
After the experience, be sure to ask them about it and truly be interested in what they’re talking about. The next time this will reinforce that you really are excited to talk with them about their experiences.
#6: “How Big Is This Worry?”
Helping your child describe their feelings can help them process the experience. It can also help you know how you can best support them.
You can give examples or ask them to point out objects which may represent how big or small a worry is.
#7: “Can You Draw It?”
Articulating feelings can be quite difficult for children – even adults can struggle to explain their feelings. Drawing, painting, or even sculpting can help a child illustrate how they’re feeling. This can be a calming activity as they are able to process their thoughts. It can also be a way for them to communicate how they’re feeling.
It’s okay to make observations about the artwork but give them plenty of room to explain their artwork and process their feelings.
#8: “If Your Feeling Was A Monster, What Would It Look Like?”
Feelings can be difficult for little ones as abstract thinking is challenging. Asking them to describe the feeling as an animate object can be a tool to help the face it. Once the feeling becomes a monster, you can help them talk about or even talk to their feeling.
Phrases like: “you are scary but I am brave” can help them validate their feelings while also building confidence in their ability to face them.
#9: “Let’s Put Your Worry On The Shelf/In The Box While We____”
When you struggle with anxiety about a future event, you can constantly worry until the event is over. We can help our children know it’s okay to be worried, but we don’t need to be focused on it all the time.
Sometimes this could be a big event two weeks away, or it could be the 90 minutes from when they wake until they must get on the bus.
We can put the worry away while we eat our favorite breakfast, while we dance to our favorite song, while we go to our favorite playground, while we read a story. It doesn’t have to be a big distraction, but letting them know they can pause the worry and enjoy something can help them put worries into perspective. You don’t have to be stuck in worry even while anticipating a future event.
#10: “Sometimes Worry Is Helpful”
This might sound like a terrible thing to say to someone who is feeling anxious. However, when you’re feeling anxious, and you know that your peers don’t seem anxious, you can feel as if there’s something wrong with you.
Reminding your child that worry is a normal emotion, can help them remember there’s not something wrong with them. Being anxious doesn’t make them broken.
#11: “Which Calming Technique Do You Want To Use?”
Take time to proactively come up with a list of things your child finds calming. Taking time to chat with your child when they’re not anxious can also help them feel cared about. You’re validating their experience with anxieties and you’re also helping them to have a plan for future worries.
You can also practice these at times when your child isn’t feeling anxious. Doing them frequently can help your child to quickly choose a technique the next time an anxious thought begins.
#12: “What Do You Need From Me?”
Sometimes it’s best not to assume your child will ask you for help. They may very well know exactly what they need (e.g. a hug, a solution, just for you to listen, etc.) and you giving them permission to ask may ease the stress of a situation.
If you’re already feeling anxious, it can be difficult to ask for help. The feeling can be overwhelming, so much so that even if you know what you need, you can’t just think to ask for it. Asking them can make it easier for them to ask for help.