Anxiety and stress are normal for children and teens, especially as they go through different life stages and adjust to environmental changes, both at home and at school. Factors like social situations, studying for school tests, and relationships with friends and family all can contribute to stress and anxiety.
Parents can be a huge influence and help when a child is dealing with stress or anxiety.
It's important to be there for your child, and to follow some simple steps to help them feel more secure and at ease.
1. Keep the same daily schedules and routines.
Keeping to the same mealtimes, nap times, bedtimes, and after-school homework or activity routines can positively affect your child's mental health. Familiar activities and routines help children gain a sense of belonging, purpose, and self-confidence.
2. Validate your child's feelings.
Listening attentively to your child and helping them name the emotion they're feeling can make them feel heard during stressful times.
Ask your child to describe how they're feeling. If they have trouble naming their emotion, try printing out an “emotions chart," such as the one from hope4hurtingkids, with facial expressions to help them express what they're feeling.
Validate their emotion with responses such as “You're feeling sad now, aren't you?" or “It sounds like you're really frustrated." Allow them to feel understood and supported. Identifying the emotion makes it easier to talk about what your child is feeling and how they can deal with it.
3. Practice calm breathing exercises with your child.
Anxiety can come from a lot of sources, and it's important to know how to control it when a wave of anxiety occurs. A common anxiety symptom is irregular breathing.
If you suspect your child is experiencing an anxious moment that affects their breathing, teach them calm breathing.
This technique is simple, and it can usually curb anxiety in both children and adults.
Parenting children and teens with anxiety may be challenging, but there are simple things you can do to make a difference at home. Here are some dos and don'ts for helping a child who is struggling with stress or strong emotions.
It's important for parents and guardians to understand that some of the anxiety and stress your child is experiencing is normal.
From recognizing the signs to developing an at-home strategy, parents have a huge influence on making a difference. Be sure to watch out for signs that your child may need to receive additional help from medical professionals.
For more information and resources on how to help your child or teen who is struggling with emotions, visit UPMC Children's Community Pediatrics website.