Powerfully Positive Tips to Calm an Anxious Child While Boosting Confidence
When our child started shutting down it broke my heart. Suddenly, where she would have thrived before, she was self-doubting.
With the birth of each of our children it seems as if our world has shifted a little more. The skies become wider, the roads busier, and the world of possibilities more terrifying and beautiful. Yet, with all of the dreams and love, nothing could have prepared me for life with an anxious child. Surely, our well-rounded kids would never face the struggles of false insecurities.
Oh, wrong I was.
When our child started shutting down it broke my heart. Suddenly, where she would have thrived before, she was self-doubting. I could see the wheels of her mind turning. She was replaying every interaction in memory while her fidgeting feet, twisting hands, and nauseas belly told me all I needed to know about what was wrong.
Anxiety is real. Anxiety is palpable. Anxiety is a beast.
Finding my role as the parent of an anxious child took effort but I over time I learned she needed me to do four basic things:
Being present is one of the most important things we can do. When anxiety creeps in it can be overwhelming and embarrassing. Children worry that their worries are unimportant. They feel silly. Listen. Truly listen. Without intentions of responding, take time to be still and hear their cries from within. Sometimes, your silence will be more profound than your words.
Silence and presence are a great start but validation is powerfully positive in a different way. Validation is reassurance that you hear them, you accept their truth, and their truth is justified. Our natural instincts lead us to say some things that aren’t very helpful such as, “there’s nothing to worry about.” Instead, try out these phrases to help ease their fears:
“You are safe.”
“You are loved.”
“You can achieve anything.”
“You’ve worked hard and are ready for this.”
“I understand how you are feeling and I’m here for you, always.”
Children are humans who have bad days too. They aren’t perfect miniature adults. We’ve come to realize that often troubling behavior is a sign of a troubled heart. Step up and make it known that you are proud of your child, you are proud of the struggles they’ve overcome, and that you will be there for every step of the journey they are on. You are their greatest champion; cheer for them!
Anxiety can make everyday tasks a challenge. Their minds are working overtime just to get through life. Anxious children need to know their efforts are being seen and their progress is noticed. Praise the small moments.
The dirty clothes made it in the hamper!
They spent five minutes alone reading!
They got a math assignment marked off their list!
There may be many areas where they need improvement but recognizing the effort brings bigger wins.
We knew we wouldn’t always be present to lean on and she would need tools to be strong.
She’d be off at a sporting event, spending time with friends, or working part-time somewhere. Now, during these precious elementary years, is when she needed to learn to take control.
We found 5 quick calming techniques:
Breathe in deeply, hold, exhale, repeat. It seems fairly simple but to a child it can take some practice. We blew bubbles to practice taking a deep enough breath and used counting to three.
Slowly in “1-2-3”
Slowly out “1-2-3”
Children’s yoga cards are perfect for this one! We bought a big deck for all of the siblings to practice together. Now, when she’s feeling overwhelmed, she can stretch her body to relax her tensions with your favorite poses. It’s her go-to!
A calming space can be any designated area of the home. In our home, anytime a child is feeling overwhelmed, they are free to go lay in our bed until they’re ready to join the world again.
Written words, doodles, sketches, or any variation they choose make this a safe space for thoughts to run wild. We have one that is for her personally and also one for leaving love notes to each other.
Anxiety in front of others is embarrassing. A code word that you both would understand can help. “Dreamsicle” for instance. It’s your signal they need you. They can reach out without feeling put on the spot. Only you, their original safe space, knows their heart’s call.
Taking it Real World!
Now that we’ve grown through this, it’s time for her to test her mindfulness. She needs a safe space to practice her calming techniques and chances to break free from her worries. That is why I am so excited to have found Monster Education and their life skills coach!
In Monster Education’s “CEO of Your Life” course, a certified life coach helps the children set personal goals, create plans for achieving them, and will celebrate successes along the way. Their approach is focused on mindfulness and emotional intelligence. These skills, alongside personal calming, can boost confidence in an anxious child and allow them to take charge of their futures. With a little positive reinforcement and the mental tools acquired, these kids will be ready to take on anything!
Emily Vetetoe is a homeschooling mom of five children who enjoys reading, writing, and adventuring in her free time. Emily and her family have been full-time travelers since 2014 when they sold their house to embrace the idea that “home is wherever we are together”. She hopes they can one day take their explorations beyond America with long stays in Asia, Africa, and Europe.