School can be overwhelming for an anxious child. I was an anxious child all the way through school. I even ran away from school in Grade One!
Parents, here is what you can do to help your child reduce anxiety when at school.
- Breathe. Teach your child that focusing on following his/her breath in and out for a minute reduces anxiety and produces a state of calm. Practice doing this with your child every day.
- Food. Give your child foods that will not exacerbate anxiety. Pop, energy drinks, sugary treats, juice and processed food will exacerbate anxiety. Stick to fresh fruit, nuts, raisins and veggies. Salmon, tuna, chicken are good choices for sandwiches/wraps.
- Water. Make sure your child drinks water and lots of it to remain hydrated. Helps them stay calm.
- Fresh Air. Kids need to get outside at recess and lunch, if possible, to breathe in the fresh air and clear their minds.
- Sleep. Make sure your child is in bed at a decent hour. If they can’t sleep, make sure they are in bed, even if they are reading, drawing, writing journal entries…
- Music. Calming music can soothe a child to sleep.
- Routine. All children, but especially anxious children, need and crave routine.
- Technology. Avoid having your children watch the news before they go to bed. Shut off technology at least an hour before bed-time. Monitor computer time. No computers, televisions, cell-phones, etc. in the bedroom.
- Listen. Your child needs you to listen to her/his emotions and thoughts. Many times, children need to “air” their feelings and thoughts. Show compassion and empathy and then re-direct to the positives of the day. There is ALWAYS a positive.
- Encourage the positives. Every time, your child makes a dent in overcoming his/her anxiousness, comment specifically on what you noticed and appreciated.
- Love. Send a loving, supportive note with your child in their lunch or their school pack telling them that you are thinking of them. Comment on the character qualities you admire in them.
- Positive Send-off. Give your child a good send-off in the morning. Many anxious children do not like mornings. No matter what they do, when they leave to go to school, tell them you love them and you look forward to seeing them after school.
- Family Support. Put a family picture (one that your child picks) of the family having fun together in their back pack.. Such a picture reminds a child s/he is part of a supportive, loving family.
- Exercise. After school, let your children have a break, preferable outside where they can run, jump and play.
- Self-Talk. Avoid calling your child anxious. When you do, that becomes their identity. Remember, anxiety is just one aspect of your child. It isn’t your child’s identity. If you catch your child saying negative things about themselves, talk with them about it. Teach them to be kind and compassionate towards themselves.
Parents, if you feel yourself becoming anxious with your anxious child, please consider professional help. As a child who had an anxious mother, I would have appreciated it had she worked out her own issues. Even though she tried her best, I could feel her anxiety, and it exacerbated mine. It is vital that you, as parents, are calm and responsive rather than distraught and reactive. The rewards of seeking help with a therapist who specializes in mindful approaches will reap enormous benefits for all!
As usual, comments, whether you agree or disagree, are always welcome. If you have any additions to this list, please let me know. Thanks!