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10 Ways to Help Your Child Manage Their Anxiety

Eileen Bailey Jan 25th, 2013 (updated Oct 16th, 2013)
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Children with an anxiety disorder may worry endlessly or be filled with such dread that they feel sick or begin to avoid situations. When symptoms of anxiety interfere with a child’s ability to function throughout the day, it is probably time to seek help from a medical professional. Here are things a parent can do to help their child learn to manage their anxiety.

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Keep days structured but not inflexible
Keep days structured but not inflexible

Children feel safe when they know what to expect and what is expected of them. Keep the routines in your home fairly predictable but also allow for some flexibility so your children learn to adapt and adjust to change. When change in a routine is necessary, make sure to explain ahead of time what the change is and give them time to adjust. 

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Encourage your child to talk about his or her fears
Encourage your child to talk about his or her fears

Your children will feel safer knowing that you are there to listen without judging them. Ask questions to find out what is scaring your child so you can find strategies to overcome the fears. Never dismiss the fears or tell them to not worry; instead, acknowledge their fears and provide information to help them understand what is going on and why they are safe. 

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Talk about situations ahead of time
Talk about situations ahead of time

If your child has social anxiety and will be going to a birthday party, talk about it before going out the door and provide him or her with some reassuring information, such as what children he or she already knows. You can role-play different situations so they don’t seem so new and frightening. 

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Help your child find ways to relax
Help your child find ways to relax

This might be listening to music, drawing, reading or finding other ways to help relax. Talk about what types of activities he or she can do when feeling anxious about an upcoming event. 

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Review your and your child’s lifestyle
Review your and your child’s lifestyle

Look for ways to simplify life, for example, can you cut back on the number of activities your child participates in each week? Can you set aside one night a week for movie or game night? Sometimes the pressure of school and activities are too much and a slower pace of life may help lessen the anxiety. 

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Talk about expectations
Talk about expectations

Many times children perceive parent’s and teacher’s expectations as much harsher than they really are. Your child may be setting unreasonable expectations and expecting perfection. Let your child know that effort counts more than results and that you will still love them, no matter what.

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Learn about anxiety disorders in children
Learn about anxiety disorders in children

Understand the signs of anxiety and how it can impact a child’s life. Be aware of how your child exhibits symptoms, for example some children may become whiny and clingy, others may withdraw. The more you understand about anxiety disorders, the better you can support and encourage your child. 

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Be sure your child is getting plenty of sleep and eating right
Be sure your child is getting plenty of sleep and eating right

Anxiety symptoms can increase when your child is tired or hungry. Set up soothing bedtime routines to help your child get to sleep and have healthy meals and snacks.

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Add exercise to your child’s daily routine
Add exercise to your child’s daily routine

Regular exercise has been shown to decrease symptoms of anxiety. Make sure your child is going outside to play or, on days he cannot, use indoor exercise, such as the exercise games on popular video games. 

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Don't be afraid to ask for help
Don't be afraid to ask for help

If your child is having trouble in school, talk with her teachers and guidance counselor. Make an appointment with your pediatrician. Seek out the help you need to help your child live a happy life. Work together with your child to come up with strategies, such as deep breathing, that they can use no matter where they are. And always let your child know that you love him or her no matter what.