Most children experience anxiety at some point in their childhood. Beyond generalized anxiety, which is a psychological disorder, anxiety can actually be part of childhood development. Some children are anxious about change, so it is common for them to feel uneasy when starting school or visiting a camp. Others are more susceptible and experience anxiety in more everyday life situations such as going to bed or meeting with the whole family.
It is worth clarifying that experiencing a certain level of anxiety at specific times during childhood is normal. However, if we do not want to raise fearful and apprehensive children, it is important to curb anxiety so that it does not gain strength. It is important not to deny or downplay anxiety, the best strategy to deal with this state is to validate its existence, explain to children that it is a normal reaction and teach them to manage these sensations.
It’s never too early to teach children how to deal with unpleasant emotions in healthy ways. In fact, there are different techniques and breathing games to help children control childhood anxiety , but if you are looking for a quick way to transmit security and serenity to children, words can become your best ally.
Seven phrases to calm an anxious child
Words have enormous power over children’s minds. There are words that can make you feel bad, but there are also words that comfort and encourage you to move forward. Of course, there are also words capable of calming and attenuating fear while offering the necessary strength to face difficult situations. Here are some short but emotionally charged phrases that can help calm an anxious child in a matter of minutes.
1. “I am with you, you are safe”
Anxiety often goes hand in hand with insecurity. When a child is anxious, an alarm signal is immediately activated in his brain that makes him feel insecure and triggers fear. Therefore, when you notice the first signs of anxiety in your child, hug him and let him know that he is safe by your side . If necessary, stay with him for a while until he has completely calmed down. This way he will know that he is safe, so his brain will calm down and the anxiety will begin to subside.
2. “I’ve been through that too”
Thinking that we are the only ones who feel insecure, overwhelmed or fearful is one of the worst traps that anxiety leads us into. In these cases, knowing that other people have experienced the same thing and have overcome it can be a great tool to combat anxiety symptoms. So don’t be shy about telling your child about the time you felt fear and anxiety too. Tell him how you felt and what you did to deal with that experience. This way he will know that he is not alone and that, if others have been able to get out of that situation, he will also be able to do it.
3. “What is the worst that can happen?”
Basically, anxiety is a state of negative expectation in which we sense that something bad will happen, although we cannot say precisely what it is or when it will happen. Therefore, an excellent strategy to help children identify their worst fears is to encourage them to imagine the worst possible scenario. This way, you’ll help them put the situation in perspective and make a plan for what might happen, which will ease their anxiety considerably.
4. “Do you remember when…?
Anxiety often clouds our rationality and temporarily erases our memory, so that we can only think about how bad we are having it at that moment. However, it is likely that in the past we have been through worse times and we have overcome them. A good strategy to remind kids of this is to ask them to think about the time you went to the dentist and overcame your fear or how well you coped with the first day of camp, despite his nervousness. Without a doubt, a very simple way to give them back control and self-confidence.
5. “I know it’s hard, but I’m sure you’ll get through it.”
Downplaying anxiety will not make it go away, in fact, it can backfire and intensify symptoms. On the contrary, when you validate children’s anxiety, you are not only acknowledging but also respecting their emotions and individuality. A great way to let her know that you understand your child is to put yourself in her shoes and let her know that you’re aware that she’s not having a good time. To encourage him and help him get out of this vicious circle, reinforce his self-esteem by telling him that you are convinced that he will come out of this situation successfully.
6. “If you had to paint what you were feeling in one color, what color would you choose?”
Helping children to recognize their emotions is the first step so that, later, they can learn to manage them. A very simple way to help them focus their attention on what they are experiencing is to ask them to color what they are feeling. Black, blue, red… let him choose the color he thinks is most suitable and ask him why he has chosen it. In this way, not only will they be more aware of what they are experiencing, but they will also be able to speak more freely about their experience.
7. “Let’s count to…”
The more aware we are of anxiety and the more we focus on nervousness and distress, the more symptoms intensify. Therefore, a good phrase to calm anxious children is to divert their attention from the emotions they are experiencing. In these cases, you can ask your child to count together the number of trees if you are on a road trip, the people you see passing by if you are at the doctor or the other children with blue backpacks arriving at school. The idea is to divert your attention to keep you distracted.