Help your child manage worries and anxiety
Do you wish you could do more to help your child manage worries and anxiety?Unfortunately, children don’t come with guarantees or a manual. As a parent, it can be very challenging to be fluent in helping children with worries and anxiety. If only being a child once ourselves could give us the answers and knowledge needed to help children feel empowered, supported, confident, connected and happy.
Some of the techniques I use when working with children who have worries, fears and anxiety can be adapted to use at home.
Most healthy children have a great imagination and, in fact, regularly spend time entranced by stories, films, TV and pretend play. By learning about what the child loves and is interested in, you can better connect with them. Just simply asking a child what their superhero would do in a challenging situation, which is relevant to them, can help them to focus positively on solutions.
It is far better to support your child in finding solutions and strategies to work through situations, rather than just telling them it will be OK. Storytelling using metaphors can be a wonderful way of reaching your child’s subconscious mind, where fears and worries are stored.
I like children to be able to externalise their worries. Having your child make a representation of their worry in playdough, Lego or by simply drawing it can be very helpful.
For instance, the child who feels fearful of going to new places may feel the worry in their tummy and head (this is because emotions such as stress and fear trigger the fight or flight response. There are some super, child-friendly books that help explain what happens to the body when certain emotions are felt).
They may be supported to imagine their worry as a shape/character and imagine it travelling from their tummy/head through to their non-dominant hand, where they can release it with their outward breath. If they actually make their shape/character out of dough or bricks, you can have fun together thinking of ways to send it far away.
Some ideas might include wrapping it up in lots and lots of packaging, sealing it tight and sending it off to the rubbish tip or, if it’s made of dough, squashing it into a ball and rolling it away. Let the child think of ways of getting rid of their unwanted shape/character. Encourage them to name it – and use its name rather than saying worry character/shape.
Drawing it in chalk and wiping it away can be very cathartic. Ask your child how it feels to rid themselves of their unwanted shape/character. Encourage them to practise this in their minds. Consider writing a story together of how the child was brave, strong and confident enough to overthrow the unwanted shape/character. If your child is older, they may want to imagine an electronic game that they have control of where they beat their unwanted shape/character.
If the child can recognise their anxious feelings and where they experience them in the body, they can use their practised visualisations to release these feelings.
Breathing techniques also work well and children should be taught how to do them. However, when a child is worked up, they will often not have the patience to do the techniques properly. I use bubble-blowing during my sessions. This is a fun way to practice calm breathing.
It's important that the child breathes into their tummy so that it inflates on the in-breath and deflates on the exhale. Try putting a soft toy on their tummy and let them watch it ride up and down.
Another technique that I like is for the child to imagine that they are protected from unwanted thoughts and feelings. I use a roll of wallpaper and get the child to lay down on it, I then draw around them. The child can then get busy designing ‘armour.’
Go with the child’s interests and imagination. I’ve worked with children who have created magical umbrellas, dinosaur skin, shields and even special perfumes. If the child can imagine themselves protected from fears, worries and hurt by visualising their own personal protection, this can help them to be able to persist when things get tough. The key is to go with what is meaningful for the child. Harry Potter fans can imagine their own special Patronus and then there is always Unicorn magic. Your child will be their own expert here!
Positive association can be very powerful. I encourage children to make a comfort box. This is to contain something they love to look at – this could be a happy family photo or maybe a special toy. Next, there should be something that sounds nice. This may be a CD of favourite music or even the lyrics of a loved song. Something that feels nice goes in next. I’ve seen slime go in, and fluffy comforters. Finally, something that smells good. For some this may be lavender for others this may be chocolate... just expect to keep renewing the chocolate!
The comfort box is also a sensory box and this should be used when the child needs comfort. What we see, hear, touch, taste and smell influences the way we feel. Everything in the box should elicit feelings of happiness and calm. The mind/body connection is important to recognise. When the mind is calm and comforted, the body is calm and comforted.
Things to remember
Imagination is key. If you can imagine yourself as confident, happy and joyful, you can bring positivity to your life.
The language you use with children very much matters. Make sure you really listen to what they have to say. Give them time to say it without interrupting. Validate their feelings, even if they are different to your own, it is how they feel.
Praise persistence and effort. It is not just about the end result. Let your child know you are interested in them and what they have to say... be open to talking about a range of feelings and emotions. Don’t be afraid to admit if you have got something wrong – learning from mistakes is called experiential learning and helps us to create different ways of doing things.
Just simply being mindful can increase mental wellness. Playing games such as 'I-Spy' or 'How many things can you find beginning with a certain letter' can be a welcome break from worrying thoughts. Games where all the senses are used are really good.
Provide lots of opportunities for children to engage in physical activities. Exercise helps increase the production of endorphins – which make us feel good. Connecting with nature is a wonderful way to lower stress. Consider walks in the park or even a tour of the garden.
Play is a wonderful therapy. Children make sense of the world through play. My techniques are play-based, fun and tailor-made for your unique child.
When considering hypnotherapy, it is very important that the child wants help with their issue and wants to come to the session. Children usually really enjoy my hypnosis which, for the younger ones is done through storytelling
If you are interested in helping your child feel happier and empowered, hypnotherapy may be just what you are looking for – why not call me on 07422500568 for a free no obligation phone consultation?