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Unleashing confidence: 10 fun ways to help your child conquer anxiety brief


Feelings of anxiety are common in children as they develop and hit different milestones. For example, young children often suffer feelings of anxiety when they’re starting school or nursery for the first time. Whereas older children tend to get anxious about things like moving up schools, relationships, health and their performance, particularly exam anxiety. These feelings are perfectly normal and something many of us will face from time to time through our lives.

However, anxiety can be a difficult emotion for children to process and understand how to cope with. They can find it hard to understand how anxiety makes them feel and what to do with those emotions. If the feeling of anxiety persists, it can start to affect a child’s performance in school, their behaviour and even their general wellbeing.

Fortunately, there are lots of things you can do as parents to help your child banish their anxiety. In fact, helping children with anxiety can be a positive experience that strengthens the relationship you have.

In this article, we explore the most common signs of anxiety to watch out for, as well as 10 fun activities to help your child overcome their anxiety.

What are the signs of anxiety in children?

Anxiety can be described as what we feel when we are worried, afraid or tense about something that is about to happen or that we think may happen in the future.

Often, anxiety can make children feel different things, from scared to panicky, embarrassed or ashamed. It’s a big emotion, and many children struggle to vocalise what they’re feeling or why. As a parent, it’s important you know some of the signs to look for that may suggest your child is feeling anxious.

All children are individuals, so they all show signs of anxiety in different ways, but there are some common signs to look out for:

  • Finding it hard to concentrate
  • Changes to their sleeping habits, like waking up in the night
  • Not eating as they normally would
  • Being irritable or getting angry quickly
  • Worrying a lot
  • Having negative thoughts
  • Crying more frequently
  • Being more clingy than usual
  • Complaining of tummy aches or feeling unwell
  • Not wanting to engage in activities they normally enjoy
  • Being withdrawn

Most children will likely show signs of one or more of these behaviours if they’re feeling anxious. But you know your child best, so if you notice any behaviour that’s out of the ordinary for your child, try to have an age-appropriate conversation about why they may be feeling that way. You can use some of the fun activities in this article to help.

How to help children with anxiety: 10 fun methods

To help your child overcome feelings of anxiousness, you can try some of the below activities. We recommend trying out different activities to see which works best for both you and your children.

 1. Create a calm jar

Calm jars are essentially homemade snow globes made using water and glitter in a jar. If your child is feeling anxious, it can be soothing for them to watch the glitter float down the jar while they take deep, calming breaths.

You can have fun personalising a calm jar by using dye to colour the water your child’s favourite colour or glueing a small toy or photo frame with a picture of you together to the bottom of the jar.

2. Two brains exercise

This activity aims to teach your child that although they may have worries and concerns, they can choose not to let the worries overpower their happy feelings. It’s also an excellent way to start a conversation with children who find it hard to pinpoint what makes them feel anxious.

Use a torch to project your child’s profile onto a large piece of paper. Trace your child’s profile out twice so that their two portraits face each other. Label one of your child’s profiles as their happy brain and the other as their worry brain. Then, ask them to write, draw or stick pictures representing things they are happy about and worried about.

Talk to your child throughout the activity, but try to use open questions and non-judgmental language. Phrases like ‘Can you tell me more about that?’ or ‘I wonder how that feels’ give children the space to open up without feeling like their worries are unimportant.

3. Make a worry box

A worry box is where children can post their anxious or worrying thoughts. This method has been shown to soothe children by giving them a physical outlet to dispel their worries. It can also help children as they know their worries are all in one place.

To make the worry box more appealing, decorate an old cardboard box with paints and stickers with your child. Or go shopping together to buy a special box to put your child’s worries in.

You can make the worry box open to everyone in the family to help model positive ways of beating anxiety, or each child could have their own if they prefer to keep their worries separate.

4. The ragdoll

The ragdoll technique is all about shaking feelings of worry or anxiety away. It’s a great option for children who are more active and don’t like sitting still. Doing it together will help give your child confidence and make them feel more relaxed.

Start by standing up and bending forward like you’re going to touch your toes. Grab onto each elbow with the opposite hand and let your body relax like a ragdoll.

As you’re doing this, ask your child to imagine all their worries falling out of the top of their head and get them to gently move side to side to shake them away. After 20 seconds, stand back up and check in to see how your child is feeling.

5. Create positive affirmations

For some children, the best way to help with anxiety is to build their confidence. One way to do this is to create positive affirmations. Not only are they a simple way to calm busy minds, but when repeated, they begin to become true.

The first thing to do is create some affirmations together. These could be phrases like ‘I am safe’ ‘I am loved,’ or ‘I always try my hardest’.

Let your child take the lead and work on affirmations that work for them. The next step is to create a poster with the affirmations on a tablet or a computer so that they look visually appealing. Print this off and pin it somewhere your child will see it daily.

You can also make it part of your daily routine to repeat the affirmations together, whether that’s first thing in the morning or just before they go to bed.

5. Journalling

Journaling is an excellent way for everyone to express their thoughts and feelings without fearing judgement. It can be a good activity for older children as it gives them a sense of authority over their thoughts and feelings and a safe space to document everything they think.

With journaling, it’s best to give your child privacy unless they want to share. You can help get them started by buying a journal together or journaling yourself to model the behaviour.

6. Verbalise and visualise feelings

Sometimes, one of the biggest challenges for children feeling anxious is working out what they’re feeling and why; this technique can help break it down. It’s best to keep this playful and non-judgmental so your child feels like they can open up.

Start by asking your child what their fear feels like or how their fear would look if they drew a picture of it. Then, ask your child about where they feel their emotions. Do they make them hot or cold? Do they get butterflies in their tummy? Follow up on your child’s answers with open questions to probe further, for example, ‘I wonder what it feels like to have butterflies in your tummy?’

Helping children pinpoint what anxiety feels like in different ways makes it easier for them to recognise signs of stress in themselves, allowing them to take proactive steps to manage these feelings.

7. Pop balloons or bubbles

Popping balloons or bubbles is a fun way for children to banish their worries. Bubbles are best for younger children, whereas older children may prefer the more dramatic and tangible effect of popping a balloon.

Start by getting them to imagine their worries being held by the bubbles or balloon, depending on which you are using, and then get them to pop the bubbles or balloon. As they pop, get them to imagine letting go of whatever was worrying them.

8. Create a happy playlist

Listening to music that makes your child feel happy can help ease their worries. Listen to lots of different tracks together to find what types of music your child enjoys. You can then make a playlist for them to put on whenever they’re feeling worried.

9. Make your own stress ball

When feeling anxious, some children tense up. You can help them release tension and distract them from whatever they’re worrying about by providing them with something they can squeeze. Getting them to make their very own stress ball adds to the fun.

To make the stress ball, use a funnel to fill a balloon with corn flour or sand. Fold the neck of the balloon over and put it inside another balloon that you’ve snipped the neck off. Repeat this with a third balloon for strength before giving it to your child to squeeze whenever they feel anxiety building.

10. Finger Breathing

Breathing techniques can help regulate a child’s emotions and make them feel calmer. However, some children may find traditional meditation or breathing exercises hard to grasp.

Finger breathing is fun and easy as it gives children something visual to focus on to help them regulate big emotions.

Get your child to put their hand out and trace their fingers. Starting at the base of the thumb, get your child to breathe in as they trace up their finger, pause at the top and then breathe out as they move down their finger.

Children only need their own hands, so they can use this technique anywhere. You may even find older children adapting it and using it discreetly when they feel overwhelmed.

How can promoting healthy habits help overcome anxiety?

Helping your child overcome anxiety is also about promoting healthy habits. It might seem obvious, but making sure your child is getting enough sleep can greatly impact how they can cope when big emotions do come up.

Food and exercise also play an essential role in helping children manage stress. Ensuring your child eats a well-balanced diet will give them the energy they need throughout the day. Exercise is also important as it can provide children with an outlet for their anxious energy.

How to reduce stress and anxiety during exams

Test anxiety is something that many children face, and it’s important to reassure your child and make sure they feel as confident as possible on exam day.

Here are some of our top tips for coping with exam stress:

  • Avoid giving your child sugar and caffeine (for older children) in the run-up to exams, as it can exacerbate hyperactivity and feelings of irritability.
  • Encourage regular breaks in their revision where your child takes time out to do something they enjoy.
  • Use meditation or breathing techniques to help your child relax.
  • Encourage your child to go outside for a walk to get some exercise and benefit from fresh air.
  • Ask open questions and listen fully to their answers without judgement
  • Encourage your child to get an early night before their exam.
  • Start the exam day off to a good start by providing a healthy and nutritious breakfast.

Whether your child is anxious about starting a new school or suffering from the challenges of A Level stress, it can be worrying as a parent to see them go through these emotions. But the activities we’ve shared and our exam stress tips can help your child overcome their anxieties and help them feel confident no matter what they face.

However, if you feel your child would benefit from some extra one-to-one support, don’t hesitate to get in touch. At JK Educate, all of our expert tutors will work with your child to gain a deeper understanding of their worries and provide them with the tools and confidence to succeed.

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Get in touch today to find out how we can boost your child’s confidence and support their learning.

Call us on 020 3488 0754 or complete our online enquiry form.

 

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