Three ways to help your child with anxiety

Kerry Moller and Associates - Three ways to help your child with anxiety

In today’s modern life, anxiety in children and teens is escalating, now affecting upwards of 20% of children and adolescents over the lifespan. Here are three highly effective techniques that parents can use to help their children not only overcome anxiety, but prevent it. When these practices are implemented as a daily ritual, like brushing teeth, your child will be more likely to develop healthy coping strategies for managing their anxiety going forward.

1) Calming

Just like adults, children are going to have intense, bodily responses to anxiety. Because it’s impossible to be physically calm and anxious at same time, it’s important to teach children how to calm their bodies from a young age. One of the quickest ways to calm the body is to practice belly breathing. Get your child to pretend they are filling a balloon in their belly: inhale slowly and inflate the belly like a balloon, hold the balloon full for one second, and then exhale slowly deflating the balloon. In just 3-5 breaths, your child will begin to calm down.

It’s important for the child to get used to this feeling of calm, and visit it often. Practice belly breathing with your child regularly throughout the day and before bed. If they can practice belly breathing for 30 seconds to a minute before bed, your child will begin to learn that this state of calm is within them and accessible at any time.

2) Awareness

Help your child develop mind-body awareness using the following activity. First, acknowledge and validate the feelings your child is reporting or exhibiting. Next, help them draw a connection between what’s happening in their bodies and the feelings of being “scared” or “anxious.” Find a picture of a body (or an outline of a body) on the internet, sit down with your child, and map out exactly what is happening inside their body when they feel anxious. Get them to point to the different parts of the image (or their own body) and speak to what is going on for them when they feel anxious. This practice helps your child develop self-awareness, and helps normalize the feelings and sensations that come along with anxiety.

3) Brainstorm and Externalize

We can often be baffled, along with our children, as to what is really bothering them. Don’t be afraid to sit down with your child and collaboratively brainstorm what might be triggering anxiety: Are they worried about going to grandma’s house, where there’s a dog, and they are afraid of dogs? Are they anxious about going to school because there’s a mean kid there they haven’t told you about?

Once you’ve discovered some of the factors in your child’s anxiety, you can externalize the anxiety using the beauty of children’s imaginations! Perhaps your child thinks of anxiety as a worry monster. If you have a teenager, they may describe it as a cloud. Pay attention to whatever metaphor or image your child gravitates to, and use that image to externalize anxiety as a certain character or entity. Ask them what it looks like, what is says, what tricks is plays on them, and what super powers they have that might help them resist the worry monster. Externalizing anxiety allows children to realize that it’s “not them” that’s the problem. This recovers a sense of agency and empowerment.

We hope these techniques serve your children well. If you want more support in the process of helping your child or teenager cope with anxiety or fear, feel free to contact Kerry Moller & Associates, and we would be happy to help you. Helping your child learn these practices while they are young can set them up for a lifetime of being able effectively manage their anxiety and fear, so that it doesn’t negatively impact them!

photo: Kristin Horsman

Sparkle Stories — An Alternative to Screen Time

Kerry Moller & Associates - Sparkle Stories

Over the next month, we at Kerry Moller at Associates have decided to share a series of blog posts about some of our most recent, favourite podcasts. Podcasts are like pre-recorded radio shows without the commercials or live callers—it’s just you, quietly listening to your favourite author, public figure, or spiritual teacher while in transit or resting at home. Listening to podcasts is a great alternative to spending idle time in front of a screen, especially for your children.

Screen time is defined as the amount of time you spend in front of an electronic screen: texting, updating your social media, watching TV, streaming movies from Netflix, or checking and responding to emails. Many people in our society are becoming increasingly aware of the feelings of disconnection and fatigue that arise from too much screen time. Notably, the risks that come with extended screen time are far greater when it comes to children and youth.

Statistics say that more than half of all the one year old babies in America spend an average of 2 hours a day in front of television or iPad screens. By the time these babies are preschool-aged, hours of screen time double. Some data suggests that children from 2-5 years in age spend as much as 4-4.6 hours a day in front of a screen.

Studies show that screen time is habit-forming: the more time young children spend in front of screens, the harder it is for them to turn them off and engage their brains in different ways as they become older. In pre-teens and adolescents, excessive screen time is linked to psychological challenges including hyperactivity, emotional and social challenges, and poor performance at school.

Enter Sparkle Stories. Sparkle Stories is an independent media company that offers hundreds of original audio stories for children through their website and podcast. These stories are simple, but engaging. Busy parents find relief knowing they can play these commercial-free stories for their children while preparing dinner or attending to household chores. Other parents love sitting down with their kids and savouring these tender tales together.

We hope all the parents out there reading this will enjoy this resource: Sparkle Stories

Additionally, here is some research on the benefits of reduced screen time:

  • Reducing screen time can help prevent childhood obesity
  • Children who spend less time in front of screens in early years tend to do better in school, have healthier eating habits, and be more physically active
  • Screen time at a young age is associated with later behavioural problems, but not if heavy viewing is discontinued before age six
  • Limiting exposure to television during the first 4 years of life may decrease children’s interest in it in later years

photo: Kristin Horsman