Aug 14 , 2020
Helping a child who is feeling anxious can be a very challenging situation to find yourself in.
Below is a list of things you can say to start with. It can be difficult for a child to contextualise or unpack their emotions but it’s not impossible and these phrases can help.
The bulk of it is about getting them out of that anxious state of mind to a more relaxed state where they can see things more clearly.
1. "How Worried are you from 1 to 10?"
This one might seem obvious, but it can really help to put things in perspective and give you a starting point to continue the conversation from.
2. "If you can, try to describe how you’re feeling"
This will give you an opportunity to empathise and give the child the opportunity to unload a bit and unpack their feelings, giving them a bit of context.
3. "You are safe, and you are loved"
Anxiety can be a very physical experience and that can be scary, especially for a child. A reminder that they are in a safe place with people who love them can begin to calm them down and alleviate their symptoms.
4. "Let me worry about this for you"
Trying to take the weight of the anxiety away from the child can help to ease the anxious feelings. Offering to worry about it for them can go some towards that.
5. "This feeling is temporary"
Try to impart the idea that the feelings they are experiencing are temporary and will not last forever. Asking them to remember a time that they didn’t feel this way will help to instil this idea.
6. "We can help this feeling go away"
Not only is the feeling temporary but we can actually do things to help it go away. Try to take a few deep breaths together and calm down the physical side of things. This will free up some space in their minds to deal with their feelings, rather than being caught up in them.
7. "What do we know for sure?"
Talk through what you actually know about the situation that’s making them anxious can really help to put things in perspective and slow down their thinking. The act of thinking things through will also be something of a distraction from the immediate situation.
8. "That makes me feel the same way sometimes"
This particular strategy can be good depending on the situation. There are some things in life that it’s normal to be anxious about and there is no value in pretending to be superman if the truth will help your child feel better. Try and gauge how anxious they are and how fixable the situation is before resorting to this one.
9. "Let’s think through all of the possibilities"
Start off with what the situation is, then calmly talk through all of the ways that it might play out, some might be negative, but others will be positive. Give them a road map for their dilemma and walk through it a few times with them to help them feel more in control with a bit of context.
10. "Think about a time when you were happy"
This is another exercise in providing context. It probably seems quite obvious but it’s a really good way to help put them in a different state of mind and can snap them out of it a bit.
Once you have them back in a happier place it can be easier to rationalise their fears and break the situation down.