This post may contain affiliate links. See our disclosure policy for details.
If you have a child who worries, it’s easy for YOU to worry, too. Will they make friends? Will it hurt them academically? What could all this worrying do to them physically? If you’re like me, you’ve probably spent long hours searching for resources for child anxiety. That’s just what good parents do! We try to make everything better.
Unfortunately, I can’t make it all better with a few words, though I wish I could. (Anyone who tells you differently is selling some serious snake oil, btw.) But I can offer hope and some suggestions, based on many years working with children and teens with anxiety. Please know with some love, patience, and evidence-based strategies and activities for anxiety, you can help your child pull through.
Make a “Zen Zone”
This one is my favorite. Somewhere in your house, designate a special spot as the “zen zone” and hand it over to your child. It might be a corner, closet, loft, top bunk, beanbag chair, whatever! I’ve found kids tend to like small spaces because it helps them feel safe and secure, but your child might be different. This will be a spot for your child to frequent when they’re experiencing stress or anxiety.
Have your child fill the space with calming items. Some ideas might include…
- A weighted blanket
- Pictures of loved ones
- Soft lighting like a lava lamp or twinkle lights
- Favorite stuffed animals
- Fidget items (I’ve covered this topic in a previous post on sensory toys, but basically anything to help them focus on the “here and now” works well.)
- Colored pencils and an intricate coloring book that requires focus
- Words of affirmation or cards from their “what to do” checklist. Speaking of which…
Create a “What to Do” Visual Checklist
When a child is experiencing a bout of anxiety or a panic attack, their cognitive abilities slow way down. This makes it difficult to engage in higher-order thinking like making decisions. If they forget what to do when they experience anxiety, a “what to do” visual checklist is the answer.
You might include items like “go to your zen zone,” do some deep breathing, play with Fido, do a grounding exercise, and more.
A “what to do” visual checklist could take a couple of different forms. You might tape sheets of printer paper with visual cues in a space your child frequents. You also could take index cards, punch a hole in the corner, and connect them on a keychain for easy, portable reminders. Finally, if your child has their own phone or tablet device, you could make a special document or screen saver with their visual checklist on it.
Good books can’t cure a child of anxiety, but some are a tremendous amount of help. I find the helpful ones come in two different varieties:
- A Little Spot of Anxiety: A Story about Calming Your Worries
- Don’t Feed the WorryBug
- The Invisible String
- William the What-If Wonder: On His First Day of School
Books that are resources for child anxiety
- Breathe Like a Bear: 30 Mindful Moments for Kids to Feel Calm and Focused Anytime, Anywhere
- Anxiety Relief for Teens: Essential CBT Skills and Mindfulness Practices to Overcome Anxiety and Stress
- Yes, I have Anxiety. Deal. With. It.
- What to do When You Worry Too Much: A Kid’s Guide to Overcoming Anxiety
We humans know there’s something about music that’s healing to a soul. Help your child make their own “calm down playlist” for when they’re escalating.
Some kids might want just a series of nature sounds like waterfalls, birds singing, or a thunderstorm. Other kids might prefer songs whose lyrics speak to the struggles they’re facing, and how to overcome them. (The last bit is important, because some songs can just bog a kid down in depressive, hopeless lyrics.) Songs like “Brave” by Sara Barellis, “Roar” by Katy Perry, and “Shake it Out” by Florence + the Machine are on my personal mix. If you’re blanking on ideas, google ‘songs about overcoming’ and you’ll find a ton.
Worksheets as resources for child anxiety
We’ve got an 18 page packet of prompts and worksheets for this exact purpose. You can find them at My Worry Book: Anxiety Worksheets.
If you want to DYI it, however, I’ve got you covered. A regular ol’ spiral bound notebook works just as well (though it’s not as pretty). All you need is to write a different prompt at the top of each page. One page might ask your child to write (or draw) people in their life they can go to when they’re anxious. Another page might prompt them to write about times when they successfully handled big feelings in the past, and how they did it. You might offer a bunch of blank pages for letting them simply process: “what’s the matter, what can I control, and what do I have to accept?”
A good therapist: the best resource for child anxiety
I mean, this one is kind of a no-brainer, right? There are highly skilled and trained professionals out there who help kids with this specific issue all day long. The best ones not only help equip your child to deal with their anxiety, but also help YOU to help your child. Why wouldn’t you rope them in and make them part of your solution team?
For more reading on this topic:
- What is Alternative Education? 4 Options for Your Child
- Sanity-Saving Activities for Children with Anxiety
- Your Guide to Homeschooling a Special Needs Child
- Executive Functioning Activities (Masterlist!)
Hillary is a former teacher who went rogue and became a freelance writer. When not offering support and advice to homeschooling families, she tends to her own garden, family, and cat. You can connect with her on her website, homegrownhillary.com.