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40 Comments to
49 Phrases to Calm an Anxious Child

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  1. No 21 – how exactly is ‘worry helpful sometimes’? i.e. what reasons (specificity) does one give a child for the anxiety being ‘helpful’?

    Could add to this list calming music in the background over long periods – i.e. possibly pre-empting the anxiety – have found the ‘Relaxing Bach’ CD works. Also a foot massage..

    Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are’. I believe strongly in bibliotherapy. Could you compile a list of books which could help? I think there are various ones with emotions personified…?

    • Anxiety can be useful because it prepares us to handle problems. It causes us to adapt to circumstances where we need to plan and adjust. It’s a protective phenomenon, which often becomes excessive and is no longer adaptive, but it can protect us from danger and pain which we wouldn’t avoid if we had no anxiety about harm coming to us. Children without a normal dose of fear would likely have bad consequences without constant supervision. Anxiety takes away some of our innocence/ignorance but it helps us see what we need to prepare for in the world.

    • Great question! I wrote an article about the benefits of worry here: http://www.gozen.com/8-ways-to-help-your-kids-stress-better/

    • What is also helpful is not “worry” itself but the paradoxical direction ( permission) to go ahead and worry out loud: naming your fears instead of hiding them.

    • Renee Jain, what a GREAT article. Definitely sharing! I think some of the suggestions would be great adult to adult, too!

  2. Thank you, thank you thank you for posting and sharing this information!!! (Anxiety tends to run in our family) It is so incredibly appreciated!! A wealth of knowledge, creative ideas, and tools that our family will greatly benefit from! Again I thank you from the bottom of my heart. God bless you 🙂

    • You are so welcome, Teri.

  3. This is probably the best article I have read about helping children that I have come across in a long time with many valuable resources in it. All children experience anxiety and giving them tools as children will surely help them cope with life as adults. Thank you for giving this beautiful gift Renee.

    • Merri, great to hear, thank you, Merri.

  4. As a special-education teacher with 25+ yrs experience working with children at all stages of emotional and mental maturity, I’ve had incredible success using EFT with my students. So much so that I wrote a book and created a plush teddy bear for tapping that kids and parents can use together. Many other teachers are now incorporating this as part of their daily classroom use. It’s a great tool for teaching kids how to identify and healthfully manage a range of emotions.
    http://www.essiebear.com

    • Hey Bonnie, I’m a mega fan of EFT. Thanks for posting. 🙂 Here’s my version of a tapping book for kids: http://amzn.to/1TL0vfv

  5. This list is so awesome and creative! There’s so many new ideas I can use with my 9 year old daughter who is really suffering. Plus, I can use them with my clients in my practice! Thank you two-fold Renee!

    • Fantastic, Cheryll, glad to hear it!!

  6. Thank you for these unique and helpful phrases! We agree, empathy is the answer when it comes to helping others, especially our children. To strengthen the connection in families, we offer our Big-Hearted Families™ program and other resources for sharing kindness and service to others.

  7. Excellent. A good read for adults who still are controlled by anxiety too.
    The sooner coping skills are learned the sooner life becomes living.

  8. It is refreshing to know you are not alone. Some of these tips i have already used but is very happy to try the others that seem very likely to make some difference in our lives as we deal with anxiety on a daily basis.

  9. Want to round up to 50? Use tone! Any of these phrases spoken in a whisper cause a child to focus their attention to hear ( because they are naturally inquisitive)and draw near for calming physical contact. Any spoken in a funny (or singing) voice usually results in surprise, focus and then laughter which triggers many physical stress reducing systems. Laughter really is powerful medicine!


  10. I am here for you.” have fun q

  11. This couldn’t have come at a better time. I’ve run out of ideas on how to help, especially when my daughter just yells “NO!” when I try what we’ve tried 100 times. It’s especially nice that many of these are appropriate for older kids. So many solutions seem aimed at stressed toddlers. I’m printing this off and keeping it ready. Thank you so much!!!

  12. This is an eye-opening article for me. My son is 9, and having issues in school with anxiety. He’s tested gifted, but seems to struggle in school, mostly with focus and pace. He has 2 amazing teachers, but a third teacher who says he should ‘see a doctor’ and he ‘always daydreams’ and ‘for some reason’ wants to do his classwork at home instead of with her. His third grade class has a homeroom teacher who is their reading/writing/language arts teacher, and another teacher who teaches math/science/social studies (this is the one who makes me feel like Ben is annoying). The sad part of this is, his favorite things in the world are science and computers and math and solving problems. Unfortunately we have a tenured woman who clearly has no interest in her students. Any advice or insight is much appreciated. My oldest is 16 and gifted, but didn’t have the anxiety that Ben has, so I’m new to how to make Ben’s school experiences with this teacher the best they can be, considering the circumstances. Thanks so much.

    • Julie, You could have written that about my 9 year old. But, add in refusing to go to school and phobia of sickness. I am fortunate to have an amazing team at school working with me to help him. I would go to the school counselor and VP and see about setting up a Child Study meeting. Talk to the VP privately about your concerns with the uncooperative classroom teacher. Unfortunately, you and your son will always run into those who don’t understand that anxiety is a real issue and you can’t just “get over it”. Maybe see if your son could change classes? The “daydreaming” is probably because he is internally distracting himself with his anxiety. Happens to my son all the time. Good luck with it all. And know that there are other kids out there just like him!

    • Hi Julie, I’ve been dealing with my oldest daughter’s anxiety issues for years. When she was about 4 or 5 I took her to her pediatrician and explained what was going on with her. The Dr. told me that it was obvious that my husband and I were having problems at home thus causing my daughter’s anxiety. I’ve blamed myself for a long time and still do. There’s anxiety in my family but I still blame myself. As a first time mommy I was a bit rigid and followed a certain book to tee. I’m concerned that my behavior might have caused some of the problems.

      My daughter is really bright but has difficulties focusing. I home school her and I think this helps the situation a bit. I’m concerned that enrolling her in a traditional school setting will magnify the situation. I feel awful because she always tells me “Mom, I’m trying but I have a hard time focusing.” 🙁

      I’m so glad I came across this article. I will definitely implement the suggestions offered.

    • Just a lit Note, I honestly believe that little boys and “born worrying ” lol my son has always been a worry wart it would bring me to tears just thinking about it… He’s now 18 and graduating high school and is doing the delayed entry program for the Marine Corps!!! When you little boy worries try to let him know your always there for him…. ?

  13. Great article! Some of it can also be applied to adults. Anxiety is not only for children.
    Two thumbs for this 🙂

  14. I love this. I had my own favorite sentence. I had a particularly accident-prone child–things got spilled, broken, and knocked over a lot. And when that happened, I said, “Don’t worry–these things happen.” Worked like a charm. It reminded both of us that life is full of spills, breakage, and falls–and in the scheme of things, they’re not really very important.

  15. What a sweet list! I expect my children to be heroes and brave, and my gut reaction to their expressions of fear is to say “don’t be a wuss”, but I suspect some of these will be more effective in accomplishing the same thing.

  16. I was a child who had terrible, crippling anxieties when it came to anything medical. None of these phrases would have done a thing to calm me. Why not? Because sometimes a child’s anxieties are very justified, and the child knows the problem won’t be going away.

    It actually made me MORE anxious when someone told me something like the phrases listed here. The adult saying they were “on my side” wasn’t the one who had to have surgery. The person telling me that I’d feel better in a while wasn’t the one diagnosed with a chronic, incurable disease.

    Children are smarter than the author of this article gives them credit for, and condescending platitudes don’t always work.

    • I’m wondering, Breed, what do you think -would- have helped? Or, what helps now, if these problems still exist?

      Thanks!

  17. As a long time sufferer of anxiety which started in childhood, I have a few concerns about this list. As an example, the one that says “Let me hold you”, would be much better stated as a choice that child could make as in “Would you let me hold you?”. That conveys empathy without making it a command which if it were me, would shut me down. You need to take a look at this list again and think about how these things are going to sound to a distraught 5 – 7 yr old. Because sometimes anxiety isn’t the only issue, sometimes there is trauma involved as well.

    Just for the record, I agree with the previous poster, Breed7 when they say that children are smarter than we give them credit for. They are intuitively emphatic and that is why these platitudes don’t always work.

  18. This article was posted on a friend’s Facebook page and it is so timely, I could cry. I’m just starting to realize that this past year’s angst at home with my 7 year old is most likely due to separation anxiety. This list is a God send. Thank you!

  19. A printable version of this would be great for my notice board if you have one?

  20. Hi. I suffer from frequent panic attacks and this article is fantastic! I know that it was written to help deal with the fears of children but I find that it is great for me too. My counselor had told me just to go with the panic attack and ride it out. Nothing could stop it or change it. I showed my family and friends these ideas and have found that all of the ones so far have worked really well. My panic attacks and/or bouts of depression are either stopped and shorted significantly. Thank you again.

  21. A wonderfully succinct and important piece. All of these suggestions are spot on and will help so many children and families. One of the most difficult parts of anxiety is knowing how to help someone you love see their way through it. Sometimes it can be overwhelming to read longer articles and books on the subject. We know from experience that nearly everyone of the phrases in this article work. We’ve used them or similar ones throughout the years as we’ve helped one of our children manage her anxiety. Even still, it is is incredibly helpful to be reminded of what to do, to know we are not alone (none of us) and that there is a simple list we can turn to continue to help our daughter. No matter how many years of experience you have at this, it’s always easy to forget what to do. (And I’ve even authored a few books on helping children navigate difficult emotions!). Printing and posting this article on my kitchen wall, and sharing with my Facebook followers. Now. Thank you.

  22. Excellent. Hypnotic techniques are easy with kids because they are so imaginative. Thank you for sharing!!

  23. This is fantastic stuff. It can be tweaked and used with adults too. Who wouldn’t want to hear this?

  24. Really interested I work during the day. Is there a way of watching webinar in the evening

  25. I especially like #27 and #47 when you reinforce self-belief through past experiences. It’s said that most of our neural circuits are established during childhood and surge again during puberty.

    So, if confidence can be wired in during a tender age, it’ll greatly help the kid subconsciously in the future.

    Thanks for the list!

  26. Thanks for this great articles. is one of the best. i always like to read articles like this. Giving your children a very good time to be around you will make them feel happy because they want to be around you everytime.

    Thanks for this

  27. Thanks, Renee for this very helpful article. God bless

  28. I tend to be dismissive about lists like these because either I find them (a) overly simplistic (b) not effective or (c) trite.

    This list is fantastic. So many great suggestions. I printed up the list and will be keeping it easily accessible. Thank you.

 

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