Occasional anxiety and nerves are a normal part of growing up. All children feel nervous or anxious before an exam or a big day, and this is nothing to worry about – in fact, it may even be helpful, in the same way as adult nerves can sometimes kickstart motivation or increase focus.
However, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, one in eight children in the US suffer from an anxiety disorder. These children may well need extra help to cope with their anxiety. While medication sometimes has its place, most parents would prefer to help their child through non-pharmaceutical means where possible. Fortunately, there are a variety of things you can try to help calm your anxious child.
Aromatherapy is an easy, inexpensive, non-intrusive therapy which can help to soothe your child’s worries, almost without them even noticing. Used sensibly, aromatherapy is generally considered safe for children aged 5 and over, and with appropriate precautions taken, even babies can benefit from some aromatherapy practices. If you want to try aromatherapy with your child, be sure to follow recommended safety advice. Never apply undiluted essential oils directly to the skin and never allow your child to ingest essential oils. Essential oils for children must be diluted more than you would dilute them for use with an adult, as children’s skin is thinner and more sensitive. One of the safest ways to use aromatherapy with a child is via a diffuser, but you can also use them topically or in bath water provided you follow the safety advice.
Good oils to use with children include lavender, vetiver and bergamot, all of which have been shown to be beneficial in reducing stress and anxiety levels and inducing an improved mood.
Herbs which have anti-anxiety effects can often safely be given to children with no adverse effects. Some children love to drink a herbal tea before bed, sweetened with honey or stevia, or you could use a tincture of herbs for your child instead. Ideally the herb you use should taste and smell appealing to the child – wrestling to get them to drink something unpleasant is not going to help remove anxiety!
Chamomile has proven anti-anxiety effects and is also known to promote relaxation and to aid sleep. Most children also like its taste and its flowery aroma, so this is a very good choice, especially if your child has trouble sleeping.
Passionflower is another good choice for a child’s anxiety herb. Passionflower promotes relaxation and sleep and has also been shown to be effective in calming racing thoughts and the kind of recurring worry which prevents sleep. This makes it perhaps a particularly good choice for an older child or teen who is stressed and anxious.
Ashwagandha is another good herb to use with children who are suffering from anxiety. It is not as appealing in taste as chamomile or passionflower, but it is an ayurvedic herb which is known to be effective in treating stress and insomnia. It’s also a tonic for the immune system which makes it beneficial to children who are exhausted with stress and anxiety.
3. Meditation and Mindfulness
There is a wealth of research available on how mindfulness and meditation can benefit adults with anxiety, but studies with children are fewer. Research does show, however, that children who learn mindfulness meditation do seem to find it helpful in managing their stress and anxiety levels. An increasing number of schools are starting to incorporate mindfulness or mediation sessions, but there are also many ways you can teach your child mindfulness at home – you can find some good suggestions here.
4. Deep Breathing
Deep breathing is useful for children suffering from anxiety, because it helps to calm the fight or flight response. Children who are old enough can learn deep breathing techniques as a useful coping strategy for moments when anxiety wells up. By getting more oxygen into their body and lowering their heart and breathing rate, children will be better able to control the physical symptoms of their anxiety, which in turn will help them in implementing psychological strategies they have learned. You can find a great selection of breathing exercises for kids here.
5. Deep Pressure Therapy
We instinctively know that a big hug or a cuddle can help to calm anxiety in both adults and children. The physiology of why has led to what is called deep pressure therapy, which works by wrapping a child up snugly, often in a specially weighted blanket or item of clothing. The pressure this applies to the body has been shown to be physically calming and soothing, and many children with anxiety report that it does help them to feel better. Weighted blankets can be particularly useful for helping manage anxiety in children with autism or ADHD, especially when children have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep.
However, weighted blankets must not be used with infants or very young children, as they could pose a safety risk.
In addition to the suggestions here, there are also a wide variety of psychological therapies and techniques which could help an anxious child – journaling, art therapy, role play and so on. Not everything will work for every child – you know your anxious child best, and it’s important to tailor any efforts to what your child will love and what may make matters worse. Taken as an overall toolbox, however, herbs, aromatherapy, meditation, deep breathing and deep pressure therapy can be excellent aids in helping your anxious child to feel calmer, stronger and more resilient.
Originally Published: wakeup-world.com