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April 24, 2024

Where Every Family Matters

Soothing Anxiousness in Kids

It's difficult to communicate a sense of calm to your child when you are struggling to cope with your own anxiety — but remember, kids have worries of their own.

Could all of the 24/7 coronavirus talk and protesting movements be affecting your kids? It's highly likely if they are on social media. But even little children pick up on what adults are talking about. If you notice a shift in your child's moods — a shorter temper, chatter about hating to wear masks or a different sort of personality taking hold, it's time to address your child's concerns. Here's how.

Talk About What's Going On
When the moment's right, sitting around the breakfast table or taking a walk after dinner, simply acknowled all of the changes your child has experienced over the past few months, says author Poppy O'Neill in the book, Sometimes I'm Anxious: A Child's Guide to Overcoming Anxiety (SkyPony; 2019). You can say, "Wow, you had school and then suddenly you didn't. And it was sort of fun at first but then you had to start staying home a lot and couldn't even go to gymnastics anymore. It's been so hard for you." Then you can talk about all of the other things that have changed. Talking about the changes will make your kids feel less alone with what they're feeling — because they’ll know that you've noticed things are the way they used to be, too. Be sure to talk about some things that haven't changed, too. 

Check Your Own Anxiety
Many experts say that parental anxiety can spread to kids. If mom or dad are struggling with stress and worry, you can be sure it will have an impact on the family. Seeing a parent in a state of anxiety is unsettling for children. Kids look to their parents for information about how to interpret difficult situations; if a parent seems consistently anxious and fearful, the child will determine that something is unsafe. There is also evidence that children of anxious parents are more likely to exhibit anxiety themselves, a probable combination of genetic risk factors and learned behaviors. If you are aware that you have anxiety, take action. There are many ways to cut your anxiety back: deep breathing, meditation, improved self care, extra sleep, etc.

Share Your Calming Techniques
It's important to remember that kids have anxiety too, not just you. So you need to share some calming techniques with them. Start with getting more exercise. Here's a round up of things you can get started with at home.

Enjoy Routine
Routine and predictablilty are very important for all children, but they can really help an overwhelmed child. Structure and routines teach kids how to constructively manage themselves and their environments. In a period of time where children and adults become fearful (anxious) about many things — especially the 'unknown' — ir'a good to counteract the "unknown" with the known: establish and lean on routines at home.

About the Author

Susan Swindell Day

Susan Day is the editor in chief for this award-winning publication and all-things Nashville Parent digital creative. She's also an Equity actress, screenwriter and a mom of four amazing kids.