When I think of childhood, I think of happy and peaceful times. But the truth of the matter is that up to 20% of children experience anxiety symptoms during their childhood. So, what can you as a parent do to help your child cope with fears and anxieties? I’m so glad you asked. I’ve put together some tips here to help you soothe your child’s fears and anxieties.
Have Your Child Talk About His/Her Fears
The first step to conquering any fear is to acknowledge and talk about the fear. This holds true for adults and children alike. Sit down with your child and talk about what he or she is afraid of. When my daughter was little, a well meaning family member gave her a Disney Movie with one of those scary wicked witches in it. Just one viewing is all it took to set her up for a string of bad dreams several nights in a row. It helped my daughter to talk about her bad dreams, and we also prayed about it. Help your child to cope and deal with his or her fears by acknowledging the fear and doing something positive to conquer the fear.
Consider Getting A Pet
Getting a pet may not be for everyone. Being pet-free is not for everyone either. Studies have shown that a pet can greatly help reduce a child’s anxiety and fear levels. If you aren’t set up for and don’t have time for the demands of dog care, then think about a cat or rabbit. Even a small pet like a hamster can have calming effects on a child. If you already do have a pet, encourage your child to spend more time with the pet. Some ideas are to have him or her read a story to the pet, groom the pet, or take the pet out for a walk.
Make Time To Relax and Have Fun Together
We all need to have recreation and relaxation time. The word recreation actually means to re-create or to restore. Recreation most often involves partaking in a pastime that is fun. Make time in your schedule everyday to do some fun activities with your child. Play a board game, go for a nature hike, or do a craft together. It doesn’t so much matter what you do, just so long as you do it while having some relaxing fun.
Make Sure He/She Is Getting Enough Sleep
A lack of sleep can elevate stress levels. When you are stressed, you can also have more fears over things that normally would not frighten or bother you. Sleep is the way that the body naturally rejuvenates itself. We all need it. Children especially need lots of rest. Make sure that your child is getting a full night’s sleep. Some children, and adults too, may also benefit from a daily nap.
Exercising is one of the best ways to get rid of anxiety. This holds true for adults, children, and even pets who need to blow off some steam. Physical activity produces endorphins which are chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers. Endorphins can help your body to relax and sleep better which in turn reduces stress. Help your child to find something to do that they enjoy that involves movement.
If you are rushed, chances are that your children will feel rushed too. And you have probably experienced yourself, that being in a hurry can lead to anxiety and stressful feelings. Make yourself slow down. Especially slow down in front of your child. Take a deep breath, and slow the pace down. Do something to cut down on having to rush. Try getting up 10 minutes earlier, or cut some unnecessary things out of your schedule.
Model good behaviors that show that you deal with stress appropriately. We all have stress in our lives. Stress can even be a good thing. But too much stress not handled in a calm manner can have negative effects on your well being. Your child will be watching how you deal with stress. What kids see, is what they will also start doing. The same way your child learned to talk, by watching and listening to you speak, is the same way that they will learn to deal with stress. Model good coping skills and stay calm when stress hits. Your child may not thank you, but he or she will benefit from you staying calm.
All children will deal with a certain amount of fear and anxiety. But when the levels of stress get too high, it will affect their well being. I’ve covered some tips that you can do to help soothe your child’s fears and anxiety levels. Make sure to model good stress managing strategies. Talk to them about what they are afraid of. Most importantly, try to reduce the stressful environment by making sure they get enough sleep, have enough exercise, and have some fun. All of these strategies will help your child to stay calm and deal with their stress and fears in a healthy manner when they come their way.