Anxiety affects all children at some point in their lives. In fact, some studies suggest that up to 11% of all children suffer from chronic anxiety that often prove debilitating. Learning how to navigate moments of anxiety is an essential life skill and one of the most effective tools for this is the language we use in conversation with our children.
1. “You are loved and safe.”
An anxious child is so overcome with feelings of fear that anything more complex than this may simply fall on deaf ears. A simple reminder that they are safe and loved can help soothe their feelings of nervousness.
2. “Tell me what you are feeling.”
Allowing your child to express the emotion they are feeling, in words that make sense to them, helps them identify the emotion and how to deal with it. Explaining that many others feel the same way (or perhaps even sharing a story of your own) may help your child feel less alone in a bewildering world of overwhelming emotion.
3. “We can learn through worrying.”
Using this phrase might sound illogical. However, encouraging our children to identify the underlying issues that give rise to their anxiety can turn something quite suffocating into something much more redemptive. They in turn learn to deal with issues head-on. Facing their fears encourages emotional growth.
4. “You make me proud, every day.”
By affirming our children every day, regardless of the situation they might find themselves in, we are soothing their inner self.
5. “Let’s take a deep breath.”
Stopping to take a deep breath in a moment of anxiety will help your child re-evaluate their emotional state in a place of calmness. It quietens their minds and brings them back into a framework of control.
6. “Tell me what you need.’
Sometimes our children get so worked up that it might seem like there is nothing we can do to help them. Put the ball in their court, encourage them to guide you by telling you what they need.
7. “I acknowledge what you are feeling.”
By verbally acknowledging what our children are feeling, we are validating them and letting them know that we believe them (which is vital, literally, in the sens of being life-giving).
Jacqui Bester is firstly a wife and mom to five rambunctious children who drive her nuts and fill her heart with unspeakable joy all in the space of a single day. She writes about her day to day adventures and misadventures in parenting, life and marriage. Jacqui is known for sharing a brutally honest account of her MESSY “mamahood”… the joy, the fun, the laughter and the tears. She enjoys a good mystery-crime novel with a lovely glass of red wine, trying out new foods and restaurants with her hubby on the odd date-night, exploring new places, learning new skills, and generally anything else that calls for a more adventurous approach to life. You can find her over on One Messy Mama.