• What is Anxiety?

    • Anxiety is a normal and natural response that occurs when an individual perceives a threat, danger, or negative outcome or event
    • A certain level of anxiety is developmentally appropriate (and helpful) as children navigate new experiences and learn new skills
    • Anxiety becomes excessive when it is persistent, highly intense and interferes with daily functioning
    Anxiety is Experienced 3 ways
    • thoughts that center around worries, what if’s, and potential danger
    • when we are anxious we tend to interpret neutral circumstances as dangerous
    • selectively focus on negative events and ruminate about past mistakes or difficulties


    • fight or flight gets triggered regardless of whether we are in real danger or just perceive something as dangerous
    • increased breathing, sweating,nausea, shaking, feeling light headed
    • a child may freeze, fidget, cry, pace, become clingy, or act out
    • when your child is overwhelmed by emotion they are being high jacked by the stress response and they will not often respond to logic, punishment, or parental
      advice during this time
    • the goal is to help our children and ourselves activate the relaxation response and come back in to balance
    5 Things you can do to help your child (or yourself) cope with anxiety:
    1.) FEEL  your way through it: 
    •  Freeze (pause and take deep breaths)
    • Empathize- (let them know you are on their side and you get it)
    • Evaluate- (once your child is calm, start to brainstorm solutions)
    • Let go- (start fresh) teach them its ok to make mistakes, you are not perfect and neither are they


    2.) Help them understand and manage their feelings

    • Understand the difference between different feelings (Name it to Tame it)
    • Understand that everyone has feelings and it is normal to experience a range of emotions
    • Understand that physical sensations you feel when you are emotional are not dangerous and don’t last forever
    • Understand that all feelings are OK but all behaviors are NOT (establish what is OK and what is not OK when they are calm)
    3.) Help them understand anxiety
    • Explain why we have anxiety (to keep us safe) and what it does to our bodies (fight or flight)
    • Personify their anxiety (worry brain, worry monster, fear from “Inside Out”)
    • Anxiety doesn't last forever 
    • Bring it to the body- help them identify where they feel the feeling in their body; allow them to use their body to discharge the emotion either through soft techniques like deep breathing, meditation, grounding, or crying or through more physical outlets like jumping, running, pushing against a wall, hitting a pillow, or squeezing an object 
    4.) Help them approach their anxiety not avoid it
    • Avoidance is the key to keep anxiety alive
    • It is natural and normal as loving parents to want to protect our children from danger or even discomfort. However when we do this we reinforce the message that “The world really is dangerous” and “I can’t handle this”
    • Teach them coping skills (see my coping skills page for reminders) so they can tolerate their feelings and choose appropriate ways to release emotions
    • We we want to empathize with the feeling but see through the fear 
    • Laddering - breaking anxiety provoking situations in to smaller more manageable chunks (What would you like to be able to do without feeling scared? What
      part are you ready to do now?)
    5.) Help them to challenge their worry thoughts 
    • Understand that anxious thinking is notoriously distorted, exaggerated, and unreliable
    • Our thoughts can set off false alarms
    • What is the worst thing that could happen? How would you cope?
    • What is the most likely thing that will happen?
    • What are 3 other possibilities besides the scenario you are worried about?
    • Positive self talk - “I can do hard things”, “I am safe”, “It’s OK to make mistake