It certainly is a difficult truth to face that our children are struggling with anxiety at such an astonishingly young age these days. Shockingly, the average age for an anxiety disorder to begin to take shape is 11 years young. As parents we have to understand that we cannot shield our kids from every troubling thing. Depending on the age of your children, there are definitely differing things that can trouble them. These age variations of anxiety can trigger certain things in our children that we as parents need to take into account when dealing with what exactly is troubling your child.
There can be serious issues that may need to be addressed in your child, and in this case, we should not be so quick to just pass it off with a “don’t worry” response. There are also things that are very irrational worries and cause undo stress in our children because they do not have the mental capacity to realize that 85% of what worries them will likely never even happen. Knowing this, it is critical to inform and teach our kids the difference between something that DESERVES real attention and worry, and a thought that has run amuck in their mind causing unwarranted anxiety.
HOW can we HELP our kids COPE with ANXIETY?
Create Healthy Eating Habits: Drink enough water during the day. Our bodies and brains absolutely need to have enough water to function – so this cannot be overlooked! Ensure they are creating a habit of drinking at least 6 – 8 glasses of water EVERY day.
Eat a good balance of foods throughout the day. A good blend of raw fruits and vegetables should be mixed in with every meal. Don’t forget to try your best to curb how much sugar and/or caffeine they are consuming – as this can be a HUGE contributor to anxiety!!
Encourage Outdoor Activity: Daily exercise is proven to reduce stress and anxiety, so be sure to encourage out door play! Heck, get out there with them and toss that baseball back and forth 😉 After all it is good for us too. Did you know that exercise helps our body produce endorphins – which is considered a natural pain killer that helps reduce stress and bring feelings of euphoria and general well-being!! So get those kids up and outside running around and make sure they are getting outside (if possible) every day. Even if you live where it is FRIGID, get them bundled up and go out for a walk, rake some leaves, shovel some snow, build a snow fort… there are still ways to get exercise in!
Which brings me to my next point of how you can accomplish that…
Reduce Screen Time: Come up with a simple plan to place some healthy time limits on how much time they are in front of a screen or on social media. We all know how peaceful the internet is… so let’s do our kids a favor and help them to reduce the amount of exposure they are getting from all of this outside influence that could certainly be triggering even more of these anxious feelings.
Boost Their Confidence: Confidence can trigger a boost in our serotonin level. Serotonin helps to stabilize our mood and create a sense of happiness. Help your child to learn something new, even if it feels uncomfortable at first, the challenge and then accomplishment will help them to build more confidence. Maybe go take a trip to Michaels and find a puzzle, or a model car, an instrument to learn, or get them a card trick book and teach them some fun tricks. Ultimately, just get them to try to build a new skill and enjoy accomplishing.
Laugh Often: Watch a funny movie, go to a park and swing, tell some jokes… Do things that bring on the laughter! Laughing is a natural way to boost that serotonin/happiness level in our brains. Laughter is GOOD MEDICINE and yes, it is good for the soul!
TALK with your kids:We’re gonna spend a little bit of time here because this is probably one of the most important ways to help. ASK them what exactly is causing these anxious or worried feelings and identify some things that are “triggers” for them. Once you have learned this, find ways to have healthy conversation about these things. Perspective is huge and showing them a different perspective can help them to see things in a way the may have not previously understood.
I remember when our youngest son would be terrified every time it rained. We asked him what he was afraid of and his answer (though it seemed irrational as an adult) in his mind – was very real. He told us that when it rained outside he thought that storms would come with heavy winds and could bring a tornado. Or, that it was going to rain so much and cause a flood, then houses would float away.
As parents we decided to take this as an opportunity and did some research to look at places that have had these things happen and encourage him with reality. We researched how modern weather equipment can usually provide people with a chance to get out safely. We also talked about evacuation or protection plans that were set in place in these areas. We encouraged him that IF and when these things happen, humanity can be AMAZING and how volunteers from all over the world would come to these places and help to rebuild. This information gave him the chance to understand that even though these things do occur sometimes, and that they can occasionally be devastating, it brought people together and “things” can be repaired.
We also talked about the benefits of rain and did some research on ways that RAIN naturally helps things, and that it is actually vital to life as we know it. So he could understand that there are many positive things that happen when the rain comes.
Being able to take whatever the worry is and give them ways to see it differently will only help provide ways for them to cope with whatever their triggers are. It is SO important to EMPOWER our children that they CAN work through these intense feelings. This will not only help them now, but grow into a healthy, functioning adult that can cope with the many things life can throw at us. Providing them with a toolkit of ways to cope is a MUST!
Here is a quick guide to spark conversation and walk them right through ways to cope.
What EXACTLY is Causing This Anxiety?
Be careful NOT to label it as “YOUR ANXIETY” it is an external thing causing anxiety within them – so let’s not claim it as “theirs” so they don’t associate themselves with the anxiety. We want them to be able to figure out whatever “IT” is that is causing these thoughts and feelings.
Is it TRUE * POSSIBLE * or FALSE *
Help them to figure out how realistic this worry or anxiety is. Here is where you can determine whether this is a healthy worry or more of an irrational worry. If it is TRUE – that is a reasonable worry. If it is POSSIBLE – that is something that is most likely not going to happen, but is possible. If it is FALSE – it will most likely NEVER happen.
How Important is This to You?
Is it something that needs attention to deal with? Is this something you can let go of after talking through it? Is this something worth causing you so much stress over? Have them figure out how important this is and IF it should continue to take up so much mental space.
What Can You Do About It?
For the most part, let them lead this by empowering and encouraging them to think for themselves. If they are struggling to find solutions, help assist with some ways they can manage this. Here is where you could also look things up or even do some research TOGETHER on ways to find some solutions and help.