Most children have their own personal fears, whether it may be tall clowns or dark spaces.
However, for the 7 per cent of children diagnosed with anxiety disorder, psychologist Steven Kurtz explained these dangers are perceived at a more sensitive level, thus triggering elevated stress responses. In fact, experts point out that children may have trouble falling asleep due to separation anxiety disorder or even experience extreme headaches from worrying about their school performance.
While these characteristics may make them seem vulnerable, these kids still have the power to process their experiences and overcome anxiety disorder. You can help them find their way towards recovery by encouraging the following activities:
Your child may think of worst-case scenarios due to generalized anxiety disorder, thus making them worry about everyday things. When these thoughts get in the way of their daily tasks, invite them to practice a mindfulness activity. Our article on ‘The Conscious Morning Routine You Need in Your Life’ recommends meditation as a great mindfulness practice that can help people reconnect with the present. If their past triggers come up, encourage them to focus on their breathing so that they can find stillness. Through mindfulness, your little one can find the strength to focus on what is happening instead of any scary possibilities that can happen.
Kids suffering from a social anxiety disorder or selective mutism may worry about being judged harshly by their peers. However, you can allow them to express themselves without any fear or judgement through journaling. SymptomFind explains that emotion journals encourage kids to connect with their own feelings and verbalize these into words. Allow your little ones to write about the highs and lows of their emotions, so that they can understand their experiences and release their worries. Through these small steps, they will learn how to express their emotions to themselves and, eventually, to other people.
If your child struggles with expressing his or herself through paper, they can opt to communicate by painting their emotions. This relaxing activity allows them to visualize their thoughts and feelings through a more creative outlet. You can start by giving them the freedom to draw figures or paint the colors that they want. Once they’re engrossed in the activity, you can encourage them to converse with you in a low-pressure environment. You can even slowly invite a potential playmate or two to help them overcome their social anxiety.
Anxiety can also cause children to develop specific phobias or even obsessive-compulsive disorder. Due to their overwhelming thoughts about their fears, they may lock all the doors or even wash their hands repeatedly to feel more protected. However, you can help them process their anxiety and empower them to overcome specific fears through bibliotherapy. Author Julia Binder Reynolds stated that your child will feel empowered once they are able to read books about characters undergoing similar challenges. To illustrate, her book The Warrior Backpack has inspired children with anxiety through the protagonist who was able to overcome anxiety through the tools from his invisible backpack.
Children with anxiety worry about future outcomes because of traumatic events that have occurred in the past. While these painful experiences are significant, you can teach them to recognize positive events with the use of gratitude jars. Meditation teachers Joel and Michelle Levey suggest that your little ones can practice gratitude by reminding themselves of three things that they are thankful for. They can opt to write these three things on paper and keep them in a jar, so they can recall these events in the future. By allowing them to focus on the things that have gone right, you can help them let go of their worries and reframe their fears.
In spite of their personal struggles, kids have the power to process their anxiety. These five activities will help them in processing their experiences, so they can emerge stronger than before.
Article written by Ruth Justine
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