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Picture this: you’re in the front seat of your car with your little one sitting in the back. You’re on your way to a ball hockey league in Vaughan. Or maybe it’s a new kid’s camp. Perhaps you’re even taking them to their soccer league. Whatever the case may be, you see them slowly shrinking into their seat, and the closer you get to the destination, the more you brace yourself for what’s about to follow. Tears, screams, stomps, and tantrums – all the telltale signs of an anxious kid are about to begin. This might not have seemed like an image, but instead a frequent reality. Don’t worry, you’re not alone. You may feel helpless, but we’ve got you covered. Here are a couple of tips and tricks that will help relieve your child of their anxiety symptoms and a few ways to help your child cope better with them.
It would help if you started by explaining anxiety to your child, simplifying it to better accommodate whatever age they may be. A reason children act out when they’re experiencing symptoms of anxiety is that they have no idea what’s going on. Their breathing quickens, they start taking rapid and shallow breaths, their heart is pounding and for some, there may even be symptoms of nausea. This can be a really scary experience! Let them know it’s okay to feel this way and that these symptoms are going to go away. The feeling won’t stay with them forever, but as a child, this is a difficult concept to grasp. They’re living in the “here and now” moment, and this present moment is freaking them out! So let them know it’s only temporary and that you can help them feel better.
To help your child slow their breathing, you can use a couple of fun activities to keep them distracted, all the while alleviating their anxiety. Ask them to blow bubbles, which is especially fun if they’re feeling anxious at a birthday party (no children’s party is complete without bubbles!). Spark up a whistling contest between the two of you. Ask them to blow out imaginary candles on your fingers. You can even try the breath in through the nose and out through the mouth technique.
To distract your child from their anxious feelings, encourage them to partake in heavy work activities. These provide input into your child’s muscles and joints, which can increase their focus and attention and help to ground them. Some options include getting them to do wall pushups, pull a wagon, carry some books or even have them pretend to chop wood while exhaling deeply as they swing down. These physical exercises can help to center them.
Have some fun with your exercises, too! Telling jokes and using humour can help to remove symptoms of anxiety. You can even try using a power stance approach where you get your child to stand like their favourite superhero or cartoon character, making them feel strong and powerful. This sense of strength and toughness can help to combat their anxiety!
There are many different routes you can take as a parent in helping your child deal with their anxiety. Make sure that in whatever road you lead them down, that your support and love for them always shines through.