Anxiety in Small Children

Anxiety in Small Children

Although anxiety is seen as a normal part of childhood development, it can be overwhelming and difficult for small children to manage.  This is such a pertinent topic at present with one in seven children experiencing anxiety and other mental health issues, it seems that we all need some help in helping our little ones. Here are some steps you can take that can help small children manage their anxiety:

  1. Teach Them to Identify Their Feelings: Encourage small children to express what emotions they are feeling. This can help them understand why they are feeling anxious and develop a vocabulary to describe their emotions.

  2. Create a Safe Environment: Providing small children with a safe and secure environment where they feel loved and supported is paramount. This can help reduce their anxiety and make them feel more confident in managing their emotions, and in how they interact in the world.

  3. Practice Deep Breathing: Teach small children how to practice deep breathing to calm their minds and bodies. One simple exercise is to hold a feather, breathe in, hold for 3 seconds, then breathe out letting their breath go up one side of the feather, and down the other side.  Another exercise is to lay on their back with a stuffed toy resting on their belly.  As they breathe in and out, watch the stuffed toy rise and fall. These exercises teach them how to use their breath mindfully and to help them calm their bodies down. 

  4. Encourage Them to Express Their Thoughts: Drawing, writing, singing or talking can all help young children express what they are thinking about, and often worrying about. Talking, writing and drawing can all help them release pent-up emotions and reduce their anxiety.  Perhaps they could write a letter to an imaginary friend, (or a fairy) telling them all about their worries.

  5. Play and Exercise: Physical activity is a great way for children and adults  to reduce stress and anxiety. Encourage small children to engage in physical activity, whether it’s playing with toys, going for a walk, or participating in sports.  

  6. Limit Screen Time: Screen time can contribute to anxiety and stress, especially in young children. Encourage small children to limit their screen time and participate in activities that engage their minds and bodies.  According to researchers, there is a strong relationship between parents’ screen time and that of their children, so being a positive example of using screen time in moderation will benefit everyone in the household.

  7. Seek Professional Help: If the anxiety becomes persistent and is affecting the child's daily life, it is important to seek professional help. A mental health professional can help children develop strategies to manage their anxiety and provide support.

Unfortunately, anxiety in small children is an all-too-common issue these days.  But by being conscious of ways to try to alleviate this could be a helpful tool for those caring for young children. 
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