1. Name the Bad Feelings
This suggestion is a common tip for anxious kids. Have your child think up a silly name for the bad feelings they’re having. For example: Henry, Then tell your child to boss those bad feelings around. “Henry, stop making me feel like that!” Or: “Go away, Henry!”
Don’t make the mistake of thinking logic will help. You can explain to a child before bedtime that you are not going away, that they are safe and their bodies need sleep – But they are experiencing real anxiety. Logic won’t do squat. In fact, it could make the anxiety worse. And when your logical appeals fail to help them, YOU will get frustrated, and that REALLY won’t help. Instead just stop talking. Give lots of hugs and kisses. And listen.
From the experts:
Recognize that the fear is real. As trivial as a fear may seem, it feels real to your child and it’s causing him or her to feel anxious and afraid…Never belittle the fear as a way of forcing your child to overcome it. Saying, “Don’t be ridiculous! There are no monsters in your closet!” may get your child to go to bed, but it won’t make the fear go away.
3. Give Your Child a ‘Friend’
Let your kid pick a doll or stuffed animal, or even something like a bracelet. In times of stress, encourage your child to find comfort in this special object. Research shows this helps kids with nighttime fears and sleep problems. Especially in cases of shared custody, the child can find it helpful to have an object they take between both houses that always travels with them.
4. Deep Breathing
In one study, teaching kids to blow into a party blower reduced anxiety in 40 percent of the kids who tried it. Like this:
5. Make a Photo Album
Make a physical photo book for your child filled with photos that will make him feel less anxious or upset. Try out this super helpful tutorial for how to make a simple DIY photo book. Allison at No Time for Flash Cards wrote it so well!
You will need some self laminating sheets ( or a laminator), photos or print outs of photo collages ( use picmonkey.com it is easy to add text) , a hole punch, scissors, and a small binder ring. Start by making collages in a 4×6 size. Create a Cover Page. Print them out and trim to a 4×6 size. Use the self laminating sheets and laminate the photos. Punch Holes! Add the Ring. Read the book!
6. Record Yourself
There is an app for the iPad called Super Notes. You can use this app to take notes or record voice notes. Your child could play the recording at night. Here is an example of a recording you could make for your child:
“You are safe. I love you. I can’t wait to see you in the morning, but right now your body needs some sleep. Breathe in until your belly feels full, then blow it out slowly. Feel your body sink deeper into the bed. Try that two more times. If you still can’t sleep, use the other tricks we practiced. I love you.”
7. Make a Calm-Down Jar
But in the middle of the night, it would not help if your child had to turn on bright lights in order to use their calm down jar… So here is a glowing bedtime bottle!
- Durable plastic bottle
- Hair Gel – nearly full bottle.
- Glitter Glue – a squirt.
- Glow in the dark paint – a squirt.
- Super Glue
- Glow in the Dark Mini Stars
Squirt the glitter glue in the bottom, and add a small amount of glow in the dark paint. The glitter glue will add some sparkle and the paint will add just a hint of glow to the whole bottle. The gel is great for resistance – so the stars don’t immediately fall to the bottom of the bottle, and the little air bubbles inside the gel simulate all the little stars in the galaxy. We added a couple of tablespoons of water as our gel was a little too thick. I wanted the stars to fall, with a little resistance. My thick hair gel had the stars floating. Once you have the consistency you want… Super glue the lid onto the bottle.
Here is another Calm Down Jar using Legos!
What You Need:
- Recycled Jar (VOSS plastic jars used for this example)
- Elmer’s Glitter Glue (½ bottle)
- Extra Glitter (for extra shine)
- Food Coloring
- Warm Water
- Lego Mini-figures
Add the glitter glue. Then warm water, enough to almost fill the jar. (Save room for shaking and movement in the bottle) Add food coloring and extra glitter. Finally, add in one Lego mini-figure. Put on the lid and tightly secure it (hot glue)
8. Build a Toolbox
After you read through these tips to see what will be a good fit for your kid, review those ideas with your kid to make sure they understand all the tools. Practice each one. Then in the moment where they’re feeling anxious or scared, they’ll be confident and prepared to use their toolbox.
If you like the idea of putting together a physical toolkit, check out Create Your Own Anti-Anxiety Kit for Children. Sharla at The Chaos and the Clutter has put together an AMAZING resource with a ton more ideas for how you can help your kid cope with anxiety.