Help your children reframe 'anxiety' and reclaim their superpowers

By supporting your child through feelings of anxiety you can help them reclaim their inner superpowers.

By supporting your child through feelings of anxiety you can help them reclaim their inner superpowers. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

The majority of parents who come to see me are worried about their child’s anxiety. Anxiety seems to be everywhere at the moment and children are definitely picking up on this. So much so, that the word “anxiety” was chosen as the word of the year, by children, when talking about health and wellbeing.

According to new research from Oxford University Press, more than 8,000 children were surveyed from 85 schools across the UK and “anxiety” came top, followed by the words “challenging” and “isolate.”

When you consider everything that our children have been through over the past couple of years, it is not surprising that these words are at the forefront of children’s minds. However, as mask wearing and Covid testing slowly reduces; how do we support our children to ease back into ‘normal?’ A ‘normal’ that some of them sadly will not remember.

Here are some top tips to reframe anxiety and support your child to reclaim their superpowers!

Label the feelings, not the child

Anxiety is a feeling and like every other feeling it can come or go. Please do not condition yourself or your children by using the phrase “an anxious person".

Our thoughts and behaviours reinforce our feelings and what we continuously think and practice, we will become. Therefore, we can also challenge our brain and reprogram it to become calmer and more connected. Slowly supporting us to feel less anxious. Remind children that they may feel anxious sometimes, but they can also feel happy, sad, excited and every other feeling also.

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“We all have a beautiful rainbow of feelings inside and every feeling is OK.”

Teach children so they understand the feeling

Anxiety is a normal and expected response to a perceived threat or danger. Some anxiety is necessary, even helpful. It’s what keeps us safe and motivates us to take action or work hard to achieve a goal.

Support them to reframe their struggles

There are no good or bad feelings, every feeling is OK, but sometimes our thoughts and feelings can become uncomfortable and unhelpful, especially when they start to get bigger. Whilst we can't control how we feel, we can control the thoughts that we attach to our feelings, which in turn changes the way that we behave and the choices that we make going forward. Our feelings are there to keep us safe, so encourage children to ask themselves, “am I safe?” If the answer is yes, then they can work to reframe the feeling of anxiety.

Which thoughts about the situation, or moment are bringing the feeling to the surface? Are these thoughts true? How can you reframe these thoughts together, making them more positive and encouraging a growth mindset? How does this change the feeling?

Introduce mindfulness

Mindfulness improves our general mood, happiness and wellbeing; reduces feelings of anxiety by increasing awareness of negative thought patterns and supports you to be able to stop them in their tracks.

It is about being present in the moment, focusing on the here and now and not concerning yourself with what has happened or what will happen. Just being fully here in this moment in time. Unlike meditation, mindfulness is not about being absent of thought, just being disconnected from them. Letting them come and go and acknowledging them as a passing phase. Embrace each moment as it is, with acceptance and free from judgement.

Mindfulness can be done anywhere, anytime. It simply requires you to give whatever you are doing 100% of your attention. You can turn any everyday activity into a beautiful mindful moment, including a shower, a snack and a walk. You can take a moment to pause anytime and enjoy some mindful breathing together, to help you recentre. To help children learn how to breathe mindfully, I encourage them to "smell the flowers," mouth closed, smell with your nose and "blow a wish" like blowing out your birthday candles, nice and slow.

Support children to reclaim their superpowers

As long as children are safe, the feeling of anxiety is there because they’re about to do something really brave! Feeling anxious, worried or scared always comes before being brave. Ask them to think of a time when they were brave and ask them how they felt before. Then think of what superpowers they used and which superpowers they could use in this moment.

Maybe if they are starting a new school, they can remember what it was like when they started nursery. How they made friends and the fun they had at playtime. Their superpower may be kindness, their smile, being helpful, doing the climbing frame on the playground, remembering children’s names in their new class, etc.

It’s all about focusing on what they can do, rather than what they feel that they can’t and remembering everything that they have done before. Helping them to manage their feelings of anxiety in healthy ways and taking back control.

If your child is struggling with any of their big feelings, we help make them child size! Please get in touch to book a free initial consultation today.