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How To Help Child With Anxiety

If your child struggles with anxious behavior here are several ways to help your child with anxiety.


Our oldest son has struggled with anxiety for as long as he could talk. The signs showed early on in life when we would take him to playgroups as a toddler and we wouldn't play with the other kids. We took him to music classes as a preschooler and he would distance himself from everyone else and not participate. As he got older and started attending school, his ability to remove himself from anxiety provoking situations became more difficult, which eventually led to escalating behaviors. 


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Throughout all of this my husband and I constantly found ourselves pushing school counselors, doctors, teachers etc,... for help, only for all of our attempts to be swept under the rug. We were told he'd grow out of it. We were told it's because he's a boy. We were told it was because he was a year younger than everyone in his class. We heard all of these excuses but no solutions for help. It was so defeating. 


This year for better or worse things got so bad that people finally had to listen. Do I wish things never got to the point that they did? Absolutely yes. Did it cause so much physical and emotional pain for me to see my son struggling the way he was? Definitely. But help finally came. 


These strategies are things we've personally worked on over the years, including what we finally did this school year that made all the difference. There are so many self calming strategies that you can work on at home, but if you find that they're not working for your child, don't hesitate to seek professional help! 


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Childhood Anxiety Symptoms:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Not sleeping or sleep walking
  • Not eating
  • Quickly getting irritable or angry, and being out of control during outbursts
  • Constantly worrying or having negative thoughts
  • Being tense or fidgety
  • Frequent bathroom use
  • Crying, clinging
  • Complaining of abdominal pain

How To Help Child With Anxiety

These are all things that we've done throughout the years to help our child with anxiety. Some of them have worked at different times, but ultimately seeing a speech therapist is what made the biggest difference for our son. If you find you've gone through most of these steps only for them to not work, seek medical help and don't stop pushing until someone will see your child and offer help. 

Find a Friend For Your Child:

Our son does a lot better in social situations when he knows he's going to have a friend with him. Whether that's a friend in his class at school, on the soccer team, etc... if he knows at least one person he's a lot more likely to participate and be okay.

For several different reasons we'd unenrolled our son from public school last year. We sent him back to school this year, and one of his best friends ended up being in his class. I personally think that made a huge difference in getting the year off on a good start and helping him feel comfortable with going back to school.

If your child doesn't have someone they know, try to connect with one of the parents and setup playdates to get together and help a friendship form. 


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Don't Avoid Situations Because of Anxiety:

I've found avoiding situations only makes things worse. When our son was little, his preschool music class was a big anxiety provoking thing for him. We kept going each week and slowly built it up so that he would participate in most of the activities, but it happened over time with baby steps. One week he'd get instruments on his own, the next week he'd actually play the instrument, the next week he'd sit with the other kids instead of with me, then he'd play in the gym and run with the other kids, and then he'd sit for the story time and listen. It didn't happen over night, but after months of sticking it out, he eventually became more at ease. 

Don't Label Your Child to People:

We used to go around all the time with a disclaimer saying Kyle was shy. He heard us telling people this and then he started identifying himself as shy. When he was three we were having people over for dinner and he said, "I'm going to go to my room and be shy". We've since learned to not talk about it in front of him, and try to build him up with positive affirmations. "You are brave, you are a child of God, you are kind, etc..." to try and get him to have a positive dialogue within himself. 

Fidget Toys for Anxiety:

When our son was younger he used to go everywhere with a small yellow duck puppet that was really comforting to him and made him more relaxed in social situations. As he's gotten older he hasn't needed it in years. For an older child though this could look like a fidget spinner, a small stress ball, something they can hold and fidget with to make themselves more comfortable. 

For children that pick the skin on their fingers, bite their nails, etc... some sort of fidget toy would be a great way to direct their energy towards something that doesn't have the potential to cause them harm. 

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Exercise Helps Anxiety:

Physical exercise is proven to be a really great way to help both children and adults deal with anxiety. We've done lots of different types of body movement with our kids like running, soccer, basketball, etc... but the one that our son likes the most is Yoga! He does CosmicKids Yoga on Youtube several times a week and it's something that he really enjoys, and it's great for his body, mind, spirit, etc... 

We've found for us personally that although our son likes playing sports, they often trigger more anxiety. Soccer seems to be a safe outlet that he really enjoys, but cross country running was a major flop for us a few years ago. It make take some trial and error to see what your child enjoys. 

When To Seek Professional Help for Anxiety:

If you've tried a wide variety of self help tools and none of them seem to be working for your child, it's a good time to consider seeking professional help. Signs it may be time for this step is if your child's anxiety is not getting better, or even getting worse. Strategies you're working on at home are not working, or it's affecting school, friendships, family life, etc... 

Speech Therapy for Anxiety:

Where we live finding mental health services is extremely difficult. Everyone is booked out months in advance, in our case doctors told us he was fine, and it was a nightmare to get him to the right place. One of our son's symptoms was an unwillingness or inability to speak in stressful situations. As a last stitch effort we took him to a speech therapist and it actually made all the difference. 

She worked with him on a program called EET or Expanded Expression Tool, that helped him to find the words that were trapped in his brain that he could not find to express his needs. It also helped him in the classroom to be a better creative writer and thinker, which was definitely not a goal we were after but a benefit that has been amazing. 

Another program he worked on was Whole Body Listening. These books take kids through different social situations and teach them the skills they need to be able to handle various scenarios in their life. These books really illustrated to our son what to do in specific situations and we'd talk about them at home again, and again, and again. 

I've always loved the saying, "Kids do well when they can." The truth is, some kids just lack skills and that is not a downfall on you as a parent. We tried our best for a long time to be enough for our son and teach him these things, but as a parent, you're not expected to be able to handle and do everything. That's why we have professionals who can step in and help. For our child speech therapy made all the difference. For yours it might be a child psychologist, occupational therapy, medication, etc... the thing that makes a difference will look different for everyone but don't stop fighting until you find the right fit! It's so worth it!

Have you had a child who struggles with anxiety? I'd love to hear what was the thing that made the biggest difference for them in the comments below!

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