My anxious child is, at 6, my oldest. She is also strong-willed, sensitive, and self-aware. She has started to articulate her feelings which is so helpful when there is conflict, but sometimes, (like adults), she gets overwhelmed by her emotions before she can sort through them and, because she is so young, this can come across as ” bad behavior” or even tantrums/emotional fits.
My daughter has told me that sometimes she feels overwhelmed and needs quiet time. She has told her teachers when she can’t concentrate and has requested to work in a quieter space. I am so proud of her in these moments because she is advocating for her needs and also coming up with solutions. Sometimes though, my husband and I need to help her and we don’t always see it coming.
Her anxiety tends to peak at night when she’s tired, or when any transitions in our life are occurring (moving into our new house, and currently about to welcome a new sibling). But sometimes her anxiety sneaks up on us and presents itself like a big dramatic monster, so I always try to remember to keep an open dialogue to learn what’s going on in busy mind.
1. When they’re worrying about things at night
My daughter will worry way into the future, and when this happens I try to listen to her worries and comfort her. Sometimes, when she just can’t shake them, we take action. This goes beyond just reading bedtime stories. We do some meditation exercises in which we think of 5 things we are looking forward to in the coming days and weeks. We practice focusing on our breathing (My husband started this and it seems to work better when he does it with her). I reassure her that things usually look better in the morning.
2. When change is overwhelming, get honest
My daughter is about to welcome her second sister and usually she’s happy and looking forward to the occasion, but sometimes when she’s acting out, she will verbalize it’s because she’s feeling overwhelmed or scared about the new baby and how things will change. This is hard because change is tough for all of us. The unknown is always uncertain. This is when I get honest with her about some of my fears, too. It teaches my daughter that it’s ok to feel anxious about change and that we are in it together.
3. Have a bag of tricks
-Essential oils that your child likes. (My daughter got her own nighttime spray made out of a blend of essential oils that she will spray on her pillow.)
-A weighted blanket. (I think everyone should have one!)
-Physical outlet like painting, working with clay or play dough, or having a dance party.
– Water! Remember that sometimes it is the most basic things that can be most soothing. (My daughter likes to make chamomile tea to switch it up.)
4. Love languages
Find out the best way to ease your child’s mind by discovering their love language. My go to book is The 5 Love Languages of Children by Gary Chapman. This might help you to better understand how your child operates and the way he or she needs to feel your love. My child really values quality time so I make sure to “schedule” it when life is getting too busy.
5. Create room for self-confidence to grow
I never thought I’d be the “busy mom” that is toting my kids to a million activities, however, my oldest has a need and desire to be busy and I see her blossoming with self-confidence and finding more and more tools to express her feelings. We do dance, gymnastics, and outdoor sports in the summer. On the free days we have, she has a chore chart where she can earn as many stickers as she wants by doing chores, or kind acts. She is very proud of her stickers and helping out around the house, this helps her know she is needed in our family and helps her get out of her head when she is feeling anxious. There are always things to do!
I hope what has helped me and my daughter can also help you. I am not a doctor, but I am a mom who cares and wants to help my kids help themselves through tough phases and transitions. I am learning as I go and so much of what I do with my kids also helps me to slow down and pay attention to my own needs, too.