4 Ways to Help your Child Deal with Anxiety or Adjustment

kids playing picture.jpg

Children experience anxiety and major transitions in life just as much, if not more so than adults, especially as they cross through developmental stages. Such responses can be natural to the developmental milestones that come with growing up. As each child strives to find their voice and identity in this world,  anxiety and stress that was not once there will naturally arise. Yet, often, particular major life transitions can create anxiety or adjustment disorders that may supersede these developmental milestones. Moving to a new town or school, being bullied, divorce, abuse, or the loss of a loved can be some of the many struggles children face that will  trigger and unmask underlying anxiety or adjustment disorders. If not noticed or dealt with healthily, there is a chance such experiences can cause negative long term impacts. Here are some key pointers that are fairly simple to implement to help your kiddo overcome and manage their anxiety in a healthy way! 

1. Make a simple visual calendar: Kids get stressed when they don't know the next step in life. Have you ever wondered why your child may have a break down in an instant of minor change? They are still learning to make sense of their world. They are still finding grounded-ness. If your child is moving to a new school, or town, or perhaps is experiencing divorce, or the loss of a loved one, making a simple visual calendar for your child can provide a sense of safety in a world that feels like chaos. Even the event of a new sibling entering into the family can be internally drastic in your older child in ways we, as adults may not realize. In making some of the unknown known in your child’s life, they are reminded of who they are in this world, and know that they have a safe place to land, you! They can predict what is to come. Give him/her ways to see where he/she will be when, what he/she will be doing on what days. If your child tends to be one who needs to plan ahead in order to feel at ease, having a visual calendar, with a simple conversation at the end of the day with you of what’s to come next, it can put their minds at ease, and their hearts at rest.

2. Let your child make choices. This will help build empowerment, and is often needed throughout certain developmental stages. For example, asking your child, “do you want to wear the blue or red shirt? Or do you want peas or carrots?, etc. Things that don’t matter either way, that leaves you with the ultimate control as the parent, can still provides them the sense of empowerment they need, depending on what developmental stage they are in.

3. Reflecting Emotions: Often, when children experience anxiety or major adjustments in life, just as with any adult, they desire and need empathy. They just may show it through behaviors that invoke your attention and can be/feel frustrating as a parent! In the event of major breakdowns, it is not the time to reason or try to rationalize with your child Remove them from the situation as much as possible, walk away if need be. Reflecting their emotions can bring surprising results. 

4. And lastly, dealing with your own anxiety amidst major transitions. We as humans are wired through attachment. We mirror what we see around us. So, if your child is seeing that you can remain calm, or center yourself in a chaotic state will reassure them that they too, have the ability to do the same! Kids also need to know that we, as adults don't always have it together. We lose our cool sometimes, and we have real emotions, just like they do. Modeling how you manage such emotional states will give them confidence that they have the ability to manage their anxiety safely and healthily! 

Amanda Cosel