Tips, Strategies, and Ideas for Parents with Worried Kids
I have a few thoughts on how to help your kids deal with their anxiety, so please keep reading!
Everyone has kids who worry from time to time.
But for some, the worries turn to concerning behavior patterns and evolve into debilitating anxiety.
Let’s be honest. This world is crazy right now. Everyone is stressed including our kids!
We are all just putting one foot in front of the other trying to have some semblance of normalcy.
All of this chaos is affecting everyone’s stress levels, especially our kids.
Moms and teachers need some resources for helping our kids deal with anxiety and fear.
Let’s start with some terms…
Worry is defined as: to give way to anxiety or unease; to allow one’s mind to dwell on difficulty or troubles.
Anxiety is defined as: a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.
Some synonyms for worry are: anguish, concern, doubt, fear, uneasiness, problem, uncertainty, trial.
Those are weighty words.
Words that don’t conjure up happy feelings inside your mind and heart.
Now imagine those words being used to describe how your child is feeling on a daily basis.
That would cause most parents to be concerned, sad, and wanting to help their child in whatever way possible.
According to the CDC, 7.1% of children aged 3-17 years have diagnosed anxiety.
That’s about 4.4 million children. Too many!
And those are only the reported and documented cases.
Bottom line, there are many children and teens suffering from debilitating worry and anxiety.
It’s a huge problem in our country.
Add the COVID craziness and all of the uncertainties surrounding these past 10 months, and it’s a recipe for little minds to be plagued with worries.
Parents are stressed because their kids are stressed.
Sometimes it seems like everyone is just one push away from being at their breaking point.
We need to help our kids and teens deal with their anxiety!
So how do we go from seeing our children worry, to helping them let stuff go, and hopefully having more peace in their minds and hearts?
I’m no doctor, but I do have some great suggestions.
Keep in mind these are just my opinions.
If your child is having panic attacks or altered behaviors that are concerning due to excessive fears or worries, please consult with your child’s pediatrician for professional advice.
But if you’re just wanting parenting advice, I have some great ways to help your children deal with fear and anxiety.
I hope you find them helpful and encouraging.
Remember, you can’t solve all of their problems, but you can give them the tools to better communicate and deal with their feelings.
*This article contains affiliate links (my book rec!) which means I may make a small commission from any items you purchase.
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6 Ways To Help Your Kids Deal With Their Anxiety
1. Journaling/Drawing Pictures
For many kids, when they’re struggling with anxiety, one of the things that can be challenging for them is verbalizing their fears.
What if my parents think I’m crazy?
What if Mommy doesn’t believe me about my nightmares?
My brother might make fun of me if he finds out I’m afraid of going to school.
Those are just hypothetical examples of kids and their thoughts.
A child may not be afraid to share their fears. They just may not know how.
Writing down their feelings or drawing pictures (if they don’t know how to write) is a great way to get their thoughts on paper.
It helps you as their parent understand their fears a little better and it may be very therapeutic for your child.
I’ve heard of parents asking their kids to write down everything they’re worried about, then read the whole list, acknowledge the worries, and throw the list away.
It represents the idea that our fears and worries exist, but they don’t have to stay with us all the time.
They don’t need to have power over our thoughts.
Journaling and drawing pictures can be super helpful for little ones or teenagers!
2. Read Books to Help Them Relate
Another great way to help your kids deal with their anxiety is to read books that are relatable to their struggles.
Books tell stories. They have characters that experience feelings, emotions, problems, and victories.
So what better way to help a child relate to someone than by reading them a great book!
And make sure you give them great examples that are age-appropriate.
Don’t be a doofus and give a poor example like this:
“Sweetheart, think about Kevin. His parents left him at home by himself for a few days, and he was fine. He bought groceries, watched tv, and was even able to defend his house from 2 bad guys. If we ever left you home alone, you’d be fine.”
Here’s an awesome book to read to little ones:
Ruby Finds A Worry by Tom Percival
This book is fantastic! Ruby is a little girl who one day notices that there’s a big blob (worry)
following her around. It’s everywhere she goes. Ruby is not a fan of this worry because she
doesn’t want to be different and it makes her feel self-conscious. Will it always be here? Will it
ever go away? At the end of the book she meets another kid who happens to have a worry
following him. Both kids realize that worries are a part of life, and you don’t have to let them
rule your thoughts and happiness. It’s just part of growing up. Make sure if you read this book
to your child, that you allow them time to ask questions and engage in conversation after you’re
done reading the book. It may be very insightful for you as the parent!
If you’re a teacher and your students are gripped with worry, or if you’re a parent and your child has lots of fears, this is a wonderful book to share with them. The illustrations are helpful too!
So order it on Amazon or check it out from the library. Either way, don’t miss out on this wonderful resource!
3. Be Honest About Your Own Fears
Another way to help your kids deal with their anxiety is to be honest about your own fears.
I’m not saying you need to share all of your irrational fears with your kids.
They have plenty of their own to deal with.
Just be honest and share from your heart.
Use age-appropriate language to convey that even as an adult, you have worries too.
Here’s an example:
Me: “Addie, did you know that there’s things that I’m afraid of ?”
Addie: “Really? Like what?”
Me: “When I’m driving in a rain storm or when it’s snowing, I’m very scared.”
Me: “I feel like I don’t have control of the car a lot of the time or I’m worried that other drivers will run into me and we will get in an accident.”
Addie: “Are you always afraid when it rains and you’re driving?”
Me: “Not always. Just when it’s pouring really hard and it’s difficult for me to see. But you know what helps me?”
Me: “I usually turn the music down and just pray and talk to God.”
Addie: “Really? The whole time?”
Me: “Pretty much. It helps me get out my thoughts, tell God that I’m afraid, and also ask Him for help to stay safe on the road. One time when I drove home from college it was pouring so hard I could barely see. I drove really really slow and prayed the whole way. And I made it home safely and had a nice long conversation with God.”
Addie: “So I should talk to God when I’m afraid?”
Me: “Absolutely. You can talk to God anytime. He tells us to give all of our worries over to Him because He cares about us.”
Addie: “So I can tell God that I’m afraid of getting bit by a rabid raccoon or attacked by a woodchuck?”
Me: “You can share it all.”
Addie: “Thanks Mommy.”
That’s just one example.
There are plenty of ways you can have honest conversations with your kids
And yes, one night Addie asked if I would pray that God would protect her from ever being bitten by a raccoon with rabies.
Rather than dismissing it as silly, we prayed about it right then.
Knowing that we had prayed about her concern helped her fall asleep.
One of the coolest things for me and Jesh in parenting has been watching Addie catch on to biblical truths like prayer.
When she’s worried about something, more than likely she will ask us to pray for her.
We are watching her turn to God for comfort and peace, and it’s beautiful to see.
This leads me to my next point.
4. Pray with Your Child
What’s another way you can help your kids deal with their anxiety?
I can’t think of a greater gift to offer your child than to teach them about going to God in times of trouble.
You are teaching them about one of the greatest tools we have in this life.
Why not teach them when they are young?
Yes, prayer is a challenging concept, but as a family you can learn to navigate prayer together.
We have prayed for Addie since before she was born. We try to pray with her every night before bed.
And now that she’s older and processing so much of life, prayer is getting incorporated more and more.
Now Addie is learning that she can talk to God anytime, not just when she’s scared.
She can share good things and hard things with Him. He cares about it all…because He cares about her.
You may be thinking, “How do I pray with my child? We hardly ever pray.”
It’s never too late to start.
My advice? Just start.
Talk to God. Talk to Him like He’s beside you and is your friend.
Tell Him what’s on your heart.
Model to your child that prayer is like a normal conversation.
For instance, there have been times in our marriage where life has thrown us some tricky storms and the feeling in the room was very heavy.
One time I grabbed Jesh’s hand to pray, and we both sat there for a while saying nothing.
Finally I spoke and just said, “Lord please be with us. We need you. Amen.”
But it actually felt better to open my mouth and cry out to God, letting Him know how much we needed Him in that moment.
If your child comes to you with fears and worries, try praying with them.
Make a habit of turning to God with your worries as a family. I think you will be pleasantly surprised with the results.
I’m not saying it’s a magic formula, because it’s not.
But there’s something to be said for giving your fears over to God, knowing that He cares for you.
Scripture says, “This is the confidence that we have before Him, that if we ask anything according to His will He hears us, and if we know He hears us in whatever we ask, we know we have the requests that we have asked of Him.” (I John 5:14-15, ESV)
Give them the gift of prayer!
Great Resources For Kids With Anxiety
You’ve made it through over half of this article, so you are definitely dedicated to helping your kids deal with their anxiety!
You should reward yourself by snagging one of these books.
When My Worries Get Too Big by Kari Dunn Buron
The subtitle for this book is A Relaxation Book for Children who Live with Anxiety.
It talks about levels of anxiety and allows for kids to verbalize their feelings about
good activities with a ranking of 1 or 2. It also discusses how anxiety affects you
in physical ways. This book is normally ranked on Top 10 Lists for books for kids
What To Do When You Worry Too Much
by Dawn Huebner, Ph. D.
This book is referred to as A Kid’s Guide To Overcoming Anxiety. It’s
designed to be very interactive for parents and children, ages 6-12. There
are even prompts for children to draw and write in order to help them learn
different calming strategies. This comes highly recommended by many!
5. Focused Activity
Want to help your kids deal with their anxiety?
Get them to DO something and focus their energy away from their fears and towards something else.
I need to get out of the house.
I’ve said that out loud to myself on more than one occasion.
Sometimes when I get overwhelmed or stressed, I just need some fresh air and physical activity.
For kids who deal with their anxiety on a regular basis, encouraging them to channel their energy into something other than their worries is a very loving thing to do as a parent.
Along with helping their anxiety temper down, a focused activity can help with building their confidence.
Play a game or do something as a family. I wrote a great post on fun family activities that are SCREEN FREE. These activities could be a great distraction if your child is dealing with anxiety.
Is your child athletic? Have him go outside and practice kicking the soccer ball around or shoot baskets for an hour.
Does your child enjoy making music? Maybe they can take up guitar lessons or learn how to play the piano.
You may get to a point when your child is freaking out about something, and talking about the fear is no longer helpful.
No progress is being made and everyone is frustrated.
Help your child take their mind off of the anxiety and go for a run (or quick walk!).
A friend of mine has shared that 2 of her 4 children deal with anxiety, and it has been so helpful for them in their struggles to have focused activities.
One of them took up knitting and another one plays the drums.
It doesn’t matter what the activity is, as long as there is some kind of creative or physical outlet to focus their energy on.
And you know what?
After an hour or so of playing outside or creating music, their worries may be the furthest thing from their mind.
For me, after I’ve taken a long walk or played the piano for awhile, I’m much calmer.
It doesn’t mean that the worries or frustrations have disappeared, but I did something for myself to improve my thinking and my emotions.
The same is true for kids!
6. Seek Out Counseling When Necessary
Just mentioning the word counseling can bring about all kinds of conflicts and opinions between people.
Please hear me that I am not recommending that your child see a counselor or therapist if they’re worried about butterflies coming near them when they’re outside. (This is one of Addie’s worries!)
I’m specifically suggesting “seek out counseling when necessary” because sometimes it is necessary.
Sometimes your child’s fears and anxieties may be so severe that their mood changes suddenly and they display very concerning behaviors.
Behaviors that warrant extra attention and outside help.
I’m not going to list specific behaviors here because I’m not a pediatrician or child psychologist.
But I will include some websites for further reading. Here are a few:
I would suggest first talking to your child’s pediatrician, sharing your concerns, and asking for advice.
Maybe there will be a formal evaluation or you’ll be referred to a specialist.
But definitely start there.
I know there are a wide range of specialists out there, so take your time and find the right one.
And therapy for kids can produce wonderful results!
You just need to find the right fit for your child and their needs.
Some friends of mine, when they brought their son home from Africa, noticed some concerning things in their son’s behavior fairly quickly.
They ended up finding an amazing therapist who specialized in play based therapy and it worked wonders in his life.
He is thriving now and I know they would highly recommend this type of therapy.
Therapy isn’t something to take lightly, but it’s also not something to shy away from.
Do what’s best for your child!
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Let’s Wrap Things Up in a Big Red Bow
There are different ways you can help your child navigate their fears, worries, and anxieties.
But there is no magic formula.
So try out one thing, and if it doesn’t seem to help, move on to something else.
If you’re worried about what other people will think, let me stop you right there.
Not every Concerned Karen or Meddling Mary in the neighborhood needs to know your business.
And trying to please everyone and consider all opinions is a recipe for insanity.
You and your spouse have a priority: parent your children and help them navigate this crazy world we live in.
Help them thrive.
To do that well, you oftentimes have to tune out the noise of other people’s opinions.
Do right by your child.
Give them the skills and tools they need to help them overcome their fears and worries.
Don’t give up on them, and don’t give up on yourself.
Parenting is a process.
Give yourself and your child lots of grace.
And remember to celebrate the many victories along the way!
In closing, I’ll leave you with this encouraging verse:
Lots of love to each of you!
Comment below if you have any other tips or ideas for helping your kids deal with anxiety.
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