How do I help my child with anxiety?

My daughter is working through some anxiety; do you have any top “first steps” you’d suggest for me?


My daughter is working through some anxiety; do you have any top “first steps” you’d suggest for me?


Love this question- thanks for reaching out. Here are my tips:

1. Manage your own anxiety about their anxiety

All too often as parents, we make their anxiety mean something about us, about how we are or are not doing enough, or we spin out about their future and what this might mean for them.  Our littles can feel our anxiousness which in turn compounds the problem.   I used to make it mean all kinds of things about what this would mean for my daughter’s future and how this would hold her back in life.  When I finally realized the story I was choosing to believe, I was able to really take a step back and question it.  One day I had someone say to me, her anxiety is going to make her one of the most kind and loving people in this world because she will be able to connect with others in a way many can’t.  I took that story and I clung to it and you know what I see evidence for it everywhere.  Instead of believing this was holding her back, I could finally see how this was moving her forward and shaping her into this amazing, kind-hearted, intuitive individual. So take a step back and ask yourself what is my anxiety about this?  What do I really, honestly think about this situation?  How does this make me feel?  Perhaps after a particular episode you can take a step back and figure out what internally is going on for you.  Write it down, get coached, process emotion and be onto your brain to help manage your own anxiety.  It sounds counterintuitive I know but I promise you the work you do on yourself will help your child tenfold.  It will show them what is possible, it will allow you to show up with so much compassion and love and it will show you in small simple ways what things you can teach them based on your own experience.

2. Make Gratitude a priority

Find a fun, easy way to tap into gratitude on a more frequent basis within your home.  In our house we came up with the grateful game- it’s very simple… every night we say three things we are grateful for before we go to bed.  Anxiety would often show up at bedtime so we were trying to shift the focus for a minute.  Sometimes this game gets really silly as my kids like to come up with some of the most obscure random things.  We laugh and giggle about it often, and they now ask to play the grateful game whenever they need to shift their focus (typically when they are feeling nervous or anxious).

3. Share analogies and stories about ways of coping

Sometimes a story or an analogy can help you teach your child about anxiety without them clamming up and getting nervous about talking about it.  An analogy that my daughter always connected with was the idea of waves on a beach and how thoughts are often coming and going.  We would try to identify the fear or the thought she was having, have her throw it out into the ocean then be okay with them coming back with the waves on occasion – not expecting it to just magically disappear.  We keep those ones we want and let the other ones pass us by.  There are so many great children’s books out there that can help teach some of these things.  Stories help normalize what they are feeling and then it also gives you a narrative to turn to when they are having a hard time knowing what to do.  Here are a few I recommend:
  • How to Tame My Anxiety Monster
  • Don’t Feed the Worry Bug
  • In My Heart  – We use this book to help teach about emotions, how to name them and identify them.  Learning how to name an emotion and process through it by identifying what color they think it would be or what texture it is and where they can find it in their body is powerful!

4. Help your child face their fears

I think our initial reaction when we see an anxious child is to help them and protect them and not to push them or encourage them to do the things that they’re afraid of.  However, the more that you avoid or don’t do certain things, it’s almost implicitly teaching the child that there is a reason to be anxious or afraid if we’re not doing the things that are difficult. It’s sending this message that, ‘Oh well, there is potentially a dangerous component to this.’  Don’t remove the obstacle, rather find ways/skills/tools to help them through it.  It’s important to help them understand that things are going to be difficult in life at times. Things can be scary. But we can do them.  The idea is …’You can feel scared. That’s OK. We’re gonna do it anyway.’  Show them how brave they are by taking small baby steps forward to help face what they are afraid of or anxious about.  Believe in them every step of the way!
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