Written by Teresa Woodruff
There’s nothing worse than knowing your child is struggling with an issue but not knowing how to help. If you recognize that your child is more nervous or “jittery” than the average child, try these tricks from us professionals.
1. Have them “draw it out.” When you notice that they had a particularly anxious or tough day, encourage them to draw about it. Drawing will help them express what may be too difficult to verbalize.
2. Tell them a story. Tell a story about a time that you felt nervous as a child. Make sure to mention something that you did that made you feel better or someone (even a stuffed animal) that you liked to talk to about it. This will help them to realize that they are not the only ones to ever be nervous.
3. Make a magic rock. Take a rock or pebble and write an inspiring or positive word on it. Anxious thoughts often arise when we are stuck on the negative or lose our confidence. Tell them to rub this rock and repeat its “magic” word whenever they feel nervous. The rock in their pocket is a physical reminder but also something smooth and soothing to rub which will help them stay calm.
4. Practice relaxation techniques. Deep breathing, mindfulness, yoga and muscle relaxation are powerful tools to get both the mind and body calm. Help your child practice these at home before bedtime.
5. Get some social skills enrichment. Struggles with certain social skills often cause children anxiety. Important social skills are: being flexible when an unexpected event arises; feeling confident; establishing positive peer relationships; compromising; expressing feelings to others; asking for help when it is needed; and being able to see another person’s perspective. Remember that if your child feels confident socially, he will be more empowered to handle the anxiety-provoking situations.
*While these strategies are intended for parents to help their children, if you notice that you are wearing yourself out trying numerous strategies and have to try more than 3 in one week (or the nervousness persists for more than 3 weeks), you may need to seek outside help by contacting a therapist. There is a certain point when we, as parents, realize that we really need the help of those who specialize in helping children with these types of issues.