6 Ways to Help Your Anxious Child

Sadie and the Big MountainWhen her preschool plans a Shavuot hike, Sadie is afraid she won’t be able to make it to the top of the “mountain” and tries to think of ways to be avoid the walk. When the day arrives, it’s much different (and better!) than Sadie presumed.

Like Sadie, even our youngest children worry about things. Here are some successful approaches that parents have used – including the PJ Library in the UK team! – to help their children deal with anxiety.

1. Do not tell your child there is nothing to worry about

Listen to them, tell them you understand and they’re not alone. Anxiety is not a bad thing, it’s something even the most confident and successful adults feel from time to time, and it’s the brain protecting us from threat. Even if the ‘threat’ feels silly to us, the worry can be as big as a mountain to our children. So, do not dismiss their worries. Let them talk about them and realise they’re not alone. Tell them ‘you get it’.

2. Pause

Try some deep breathing together, and, when your child is calm, evaluate and discuss the worry together. Mindfulness is a great skill for children to have to help them stay calm when they find a situation tough.

3. Teach your child to tackle their worries, to challenge their anxieties

Are their worries based on feelings or actual facts? Perhaps a friend didn’t want to sit with them at lunch that day, but that doesn’t have to mean the friend is no longer their friend or there won't be anyone else to sit with at lunch tomorrow.

4. Allow a time for worrying

Allow a time for worrying, perhaps a 10 minute discussion on the way home from school rather than just before bedtime when the worry may weigh heavily on your child’s mind. After the ‘Worry Discussion’ and the deep breathing is over, it’s time to do something else and close the door on the worry until the next day if the child still feels anxious and still wishes to talk it through.

5. Do not avoid things that cause anxiety

Avoidance can unfortunately make anxiety worse. Perhaps your child is scared of jumping into the deep end of the pool at swimming lessons. To ease their fear, try going to the pool ahead of the lesson and jumping in together, being silly and having fun. Perhaps your child is afraid of attending their first sleepover, so maybe your child stays at a relative’s house to try out sleeping away from home. Sometimes having a hand to hold or trying something new in little chunks is much less daunting.

6. Spend time together as a family

Finally, spend time together as a family. Whether your family takes a walk, reads a PJ Library book, or prepares a Shabbat dinner, spending time together will have a healthy impact on your little worrier. Feeling close and safe to their family is a great way to keep their mind off their worries, combat fears and promote mindfulness.

Girl in Tree

Do you have any helpful tips for helping children handle worry that you’d like to share? Share with us on Facebook or info@pjlibrary.org.uk