How to help young children with their Anxieties and Fears

We have entered a difficult time during this pandemic which has caused a lot of anxieties
and fears in people, especially young children. For some children, you may have found that
being exposed to the news of the pandemic and the changes to their regular routine may
have created anxieties and fears around death and health. For others, this may also have
been triggered by an experience such as losing a pet or a loved one. Regardless of the
circumstances, an adult in the child’s life such as a teacher, parent, carer, or grandparent
can help the child process their anxieties so that they do not become overwhelmed.
Down below are a few methods that you could use with a child that may help them.

Take it Seriously and Be Calm
When a child is telling you their worries and fears, they are opening to you. They are
trusting you about something that is bothering them. It is important here to stay calm and
reassure them and most importantly be present. Put your phone down and stop whatever
you are doing to talk to them. Be the adult and listen to what they are concerned about. Be
careful here, not to add to their worries. It is concerning when a child talks about his/her
worries and fears, but the last thing you want to do is panic the child more about concerns
you might have for their health. THEY DO NOT NEED TO HEAR YOUR FEARS!!

Controlled Breathing
Controlled Breathing can help feelings of calm and relaxation and can be used anywhere. It
is good to do this with the child and talk through the instructions, so they can mirror you
and it helps them to focus a bit more. You can repeat this until the child regains focus and a
conversation can be had.

“Take a single breath in through the nose, focusing on your chest rising as you take the deep
breath in. Now take the breath out through your mouth and repeat again a big breath
through your nose, focusing on your chest rising as you take the deep breath in. Now take
the breath through your mouth.”

Structured Worrying Time
Help the child make a worry box and then tell the child that whenever they are worried
about something they can write it down on a piece of paper and put it in their box and close
the box. Then agree a time with the child when you can sit with them and go through their
worry box with them and talk about their worries and fears. This is a great way to contain
the child worries and fears, so the child can enjoy the day and not be consumed by their
anxieties for the whole day.

Positive Affirmations
Get the child to write their own positive affirmations that they could put somewhere around
their home. If they are stuck and can not think of any, you can always show them examples.
Encourage the child to start their day and finish their day with positive thoughts. The
positive affirmations can also be used at times when they are feeling anxious or fearful to
help calm and soothe them.

Palm Pebble
Get the child to find a small object that your child can fit in their hand. This could be
anything from a pebble to a small toy. Then ask the child to explore the object with their
hands, feeling the groves, bumps, and rough areas. Ask the child to tell you what they are
feeling, and which bit they like, and which bit they dislike. This process will help them to
refocus their mind and can reduce the stress hormone, cortisol.