Clinician, Beth Breen, discusses useful tips for helping children manage anxiety.
Tip 1. Routine and Structure
Simply being an adult who responds to a child in a consistent and reliable manner who they see on a regular basis can help them to manage anxiety in their daily lives.
Tip 2. Cookie Breathing
Cookie breathing helps children calm themselves by using imagination and breathing. Tell the child to imagine that they are holding a fresh baked cookie of their favorite kind. Have the child breathe deeply through their nose, like they are taking a deep sniff of the most delicious cookie. Then have the child hold their breathe in for a second or two, and then let it out in a long sigh.
Tip 3. Grounding and Focusing Exercises
These exercises help a child change their focus from the thing causing them anxiety to an activity that allows them to calm themselves. Instruct the child to find three to five things that are red, then orange, then yellow, than green, then blue, and finally white. Instruct them to lower the volume of their voice with each color until they have reached a whisper. This should help the child change their focus and become calmer.
Tip 4. Give Clear Expectations and Steps
Knowing what to expect and what is expected of a child prior to an activity or event can help them to reduce and manage their anxieties. Let the child know what is expected from them behaviorally as well as letting them know what will happen first, second and last.
Tip 5. Give Them Developmentally Appropriate Choices
This might be allowing the child to choose between doing cookie breathing or playing a grounding game. Children feel less anxious when they feel they have some control over their environment. Make sure to provide structure around the child’s choices.
Tip 6. Model Healthy Coping Strategies and Role Play With the Child
Make sure that you stay calm when you are interacting with the child. Let them know that all their feelings are normal and okay. Show them some healthy coping exercises such as demonstrating some yoga poses or completing cookie breathing.