Anxiety is a normal human emotion. At times, we can have too much and others too little. Research suggests that a moderate level of anxiety helps us to stay motivated, focused, and productive. Having “no anxiety” is not a realistic goal for anyone, regardless of what you’ve believed or been taught.
Kids these days have a lot more to be anxious about: technology, social media, increased demands at school, being over-scheduled for extracurricular activities, watching other kids being harmed just for going to school. It is a different time with an increase in stress for our little ones.
Here are a few tips to help you child/teen manage their anxiety:
- Normalize it. Tell them that it is okay to feel anxious, share your own experiences with anxiety, and let them know that feelings are temporary and anxiety will eventually be replaced by another emotion like excitement, sadness, happiness, etc. When kids are anxious, they may feel like no one can understand what they are feeling. Although you may not be able to connect with the “reason” they are feeling anxious, kids need to be taught that their feelings are valid and normal.
- Check your own anxiety level. Being anxious or upset about your child’s anxiety will only make the situation worse. Anxious parents raise anxious kids, if you struggle with anxiety then it is important for you to learn healthy coping skills (exercise, hobbies, down time) and model using these coping skills for your kids. For example, saying “I can see that your really stressed out, let’s go outside and take a walk around the block” not only tells your child that you acknowledge what they are feeling but that there are healthy ways to cope/distract yourself when feelings become overwhelming.
- Practice and teach mindfulness. Eating dinner at the dinner table with the TV on and everyone on their smartphones is the perfect recipe for anxiety, too many things going on at once. Schedule one evening a week just to sit and have dinner together, no distractions, no technology. Being present in the moment and focusing on the food that’s being enjoyed, hearing about everyone’s day/week, and just connecting with each other versus everything and everyone else.
- Practice and teach relaxation skills. Most of us are told “take a deep breath” when we are anxious or stressed about things. Research shows that its not really a deep breath, but a slow breath that is effective for calming the nervous system down. Before a big presentation at work or that morning commute, sit and take 5-10 slow-rate breaths before starting the car or entering the boardroom. You will be able to face gridlock traffic and nail that presentation with ease. Invite kids to join you so they can learn how to implement this skill with you.
- What goes in must come out. Exercise and movement is an extremely healthy way to release anxious energy. Taking a walk in the neighborhood in the evenings before/after dinner, signing up for a family yoga class, or scheduling some time at the local park/playground can be an excellent way for you and your kids to return to nature, check in with yourself, and let all that anxious energy go!
We want you and your family to function at its best and live a long, healthy, and prosperous life together. If you and/or your child are struggling with your anxiety, contact us today for a free 10-minute consultation.