Keeping Kids Worry-Free: 3 Ways to Help Manage Your Child’s Worry & Anxiety
My 3-year-old is a worrier, just like his mama. In fact, he seems to have inherited the worry gene from my side of the family, as I come from a long line of “World Class Worriers,” as my father likes to describe us. To help my son manage the anxiety that pops up in his mind, my husband and I try to do a few things consistently to keep him calm. Of course, some work better than others depending on the day, because well, he’s only three, but here are the things that (usually) work for us:
1. Keep a consistent schedule.
I try very hard to keep to our routines, which is easier said than done in the summer when the days are longer, school is out, and my teacher husband is home every day. But we do keep morning wake-ups, breakfast time, lunch and nap schedules, and bedtime routine the same. In between these key times we have more flexibility with what we can do (particularly in summer), but still it’s usually in the same general categories: errands, playdates, adventures, or home play.
The main reason I try to keep a consistent schedule is so that my son knows exactly what to expect next. He knows that when he wakes up in the morning, he’ll have breakfast. He knows after lunch he takes a snooze. He knows that we read books and then it’s time for bed. Knowing what to expect is a big help to him (and me) and provides a framework for our days. It also allows for some natural checkpoints throughout the day where we can see how he’s feeling and he can take a break from whatever hectic activity we might be involved in.
2. Tell him what’s up.
We talk a lot in our house and my son is one of the chattiest kids I’ve ever met. This can be good and bad – good because he tells me when something is wrong, bad because long car rides can be unrelenting. If we have a big event or change coming up soon, we tell him it’s coming. For instance, my husband and I are going to a wedding soon and our son will be spending the night with my in-laws. This hasn’t happened too frequently so it’s A. Big. Deal. to our son. We’ve talked about all the fun stuff he’ll do with his Nana and Pop and how they’ll probably read him extra books and feed him candy while we’re gone (as Nanas and Pops do). My hope is that when the time comes, he won’t be too worked up about us leaving because he’s known about it and mentally prepared for it for a few weeks.
3. Take deep breaths.
When anxiety does strike, we try to remind him that a) everything will be okay, because it always is and b) to take deep breaths. He has learned over the years that deep breaths help calm him down and then he can think about (or ask us) what to do next. It sounds cliché, but taking a minute for some air and removing myself from a stressful situation is often all it takes to clear my mind and figure out what my next move is. The same goes for our little ones!
Lead by Example
I truly think the key to keeping your children happy and calm is to think about what works to keep YOU happy and calm. We all need to take breaks sometimes, we need to communicate, and we need to know what to expect. As adults, we’ve had much longer to practice those skills, but children are still learning and might need our help.
It might be easier said than done – especially if they’re the chattiest 3-year-old on Earth and you’ve been on the road for five hours and have answered for the umpteenth time that yes, we are in fact still on the highway and no, we are not there yet – but we do our best.
Hopefully these tips will help keep your kids – and your household – as calm as possible.
More on Managing Stress & Anxiety
- Are mornings hectic in your household? These strategies can help take the stress out of your family’s morning routine.
- Try these stress busting activities to help your whole family – even your kids – manage the stress and anxiety of daily life.