Change is in the air. The air is slowly becoming crisper and the trees are beginning to show sneak peeks of their exploding color. This change doesn’t only mark the tangible things in the world around us, but it also marks the time of year that school is back in session; the time of year that excitement, nerves, amazement and anxiety are in the air.
To many families, a new school year is an exciting time. A time for huge milestones, maturing a little more, new friendships, new teachers, a time to show off new school shoes and clothes that were carefully chosen. When I was in elementary school, a new school year was terrifying. It created a level of anxiety that was downright miserable. The thought of having to leave my comfortable surroundings to enter a foreign classroom with a brand new teacher and peers put me on edge. I can vividly remember my second grade year and the anxieties that my Mom helped me work through. I grew to hate school. I was overwhelmed with childhood anxiety.
Below are some tools which you might be able to use to help your child with anxiety:
1. Give them a special object to carry
One thing my Mom did to help me was to gift me a special necklace to wear on a daily basis. I remember her picking it out just for me and talking with me about it. Whenever I was anxious I could hold on to the necklace or rub the stone in the pendant. This could also work with a special coin or stone to put in a pocket.
2. Read books which speak to anxious spirits and promote development of social emotional growth
Some of my favorite books are:
The Kissing Hand
When Mama Comes Home Tonight
When Papa Comes Home Tonight
I Love You All Day Long
3. Respect their feelings
What they are feeling is very real. Pump them full of positivity, build them up and express your confidence in them. As you help them face their fears, their anxiety levels will diminish over time. Let them talk to you and listen, extend an open invitation to talk about anything at anytime.
4. Breathing exercises
There are tons of different breathing techniques out there, but one of my personal favorites is holding one finger up and having the child pretend to blow out the birthday candle. Have them breathe in for three seconds and then blow out for three seconds. This is a great way to calm the body.
5. Stay calm and don’t compare
Children look to their parents to see how they react to situations. The way their parents react will most likely determine the way in which they react. Staying calm will model the behaviors that you hope to instill in your child. Try not to compare your anxious child to anyone else, as this will cause another layer of anxiety and frustration for them.
My hope is that these tips will help you, as much as they have helped my family. We don’t want to always shield our children from anxiety-provoking activities because, if we do, they will grow up to shy away from anything that causes anxiety. We need to teach our children how to overcome their fears so they grow into adults who know how to combat anxiety and take on tough situations on their own. Be an example and a guide.