As a parent, seeing your child worrying can make you feel helpless, but there are some things you could do to help put their mind at rest.
Anxious feelings are normal in times of change in a child’s life, so it’s important to let them know they are not alone.
“Many children and young people don’t know what they are feeling when they are anxious, and it can be very frightening and overwhelming,” Emma Saddleton, YoungMinds’ parents helpline manager told The Huffington Post UK.
“They might think they are ill or that they are having a heart attack. Talk to them about what anxiety is and about what is happening in their body, and why.
“Understanding what is going on, what it is called and why it happens, can really help.”
We’ve rounded up eight tools parents could try to help kids develop the ability to put their feelings into words and encourage them to communicate more about the things that make them anxious.
Saddleton cautions that it’s always important for parents to be aware of signs their child needs extra help or support.
“If you feel your child’s anxiety is not getting any better or is getting worse, and efforts to sort it within the family have not worked, it is a good idea to ask for some professional help from their GP.” she added.
1. Worry Lists
One way to get your kids to talk about their worries is to sit down with them and ask them to make a “worry list”.
Psychologist Daniel B. Peters wrote, in a blog on the Huffington Post: “Have your child make a list of all his or her worries and fears, both small and large.
“The act of recognising and writing down worries can sometimes make the scary emotions seem less intimidating for your child.
“This allows you to identify which worries and fears you want to work on with your child, tackling them one by one together.”
2. Breathing Exercises
Just as adults can benefit from deep breathing to calm a busy mind, children can too.
For anxious children, the NHS advises: “Practise simple relaxation techniques with your child, such as taking three deep, slow breaths, breathing in for a count of three and out for three.
“You’ll find more relaxation techniques for children on the Moodcafe website.”
You can also search on YouTube for children’s breathing exercises with vibrant animations.
3. The Worry Plaque by Irish Fairy Door Company
This plaque aims to teach children to “give worries to the fairies”, leaving them “worry-free”. It’s a little on the pricey side (£29.99), but it could be a fun activity to help encourage your children to talk about how they’re feeling.
The plaque also comes with a collection of positive video affirmations from the “human fairy”, which are available for free on their website.
4. Worry Dolls
The Worry Dolls follow a mythical story, told by people from the Highlands in Guatemala. When you share your worries with them, they are said to “take them away”.
The dolls encourage children to vocalise their worries. Children are asked to tell each doll a worry then put them under their pillow before they fall asleep.
You can pick them up for less than £2 on Amazon.
5. Colour Therapy
Colour therapy for adults has been a break-through phenomenon in the past couple of years, but that’s not to say it doesn’t help children in the same way.
Colouring “lowers the activity of the amygdala, a basic part of our brain involved in controlling emotion that is affected by stress,” psychologist Gloria Martínez Ayala told HuffPost.
Find a colouring book with a theme your child may like or choose colour therapy postcards instead of a whole book.
6. Children’s Calm Down Kit
Etsy seller ‘Anxiety Calming Kits’ has created a package for children, which she believes will help them relax. Again, it’s a little on the pricey side at £13.
The kit is designed to help distract kids when they are dealing with heightened stress or anxiety. It includes putty (used much like a stress ball), a spiky ball that can massage hands, feet and arms, a marble fidget toy that’s good for distraction and a “worry stone” that is meant to make kids feel calm when they rub the stamp in the middle.
Much like the anxiety kit this has tools aimed to distract children. The “fidget cube” is dubbed an “anti-stress toy”, which allows people to fidget without judgement.
The cube has eight sides, each with different things to do and play with.
One review on Amazon read: “What a very good invention, certainty helps relieve the anxiety.”
It’s priced at £19.99.
8. Homemade Calm Jar
You may have seen these glitter jars shared on the internet and they’re really simple to make. They are filled with colourful liquid and glitter that you move around and shake like a snow globe.
The idea is that they’re calming to watch and great for relaxation and meditation. Watch YouTube tutorials to see how to make them at home.
If you are worried about your child’s anxiety, contact YoungMinds’ parents’ helpline on 0808 802 5544.