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Many people claim to have found the perfect natural remedies for anxiety in children. You can find tons of articles claiming CBD, herbal supplements, or essential oils are all magic cures. These claims run the BS spectrum from “huh, actually might work” to “downright snake oil.”
Let’s get one thing straight first: I’m not a doctor. Even if I were, I’m definitely not your doctor. Trust me, you don’t want me prescribing you anything other than a warm hug. Medicine is not my field of expertise– teaching is.
But if I were to guess, you’re not necessarily looking for a miracle. You don’t need magic pill, oil, or herb to make your child’s anxiety go away instantly. You just want something to help that isn’t literal medication, especially for your young child. Or maybe you just want to try some natural remedies for anxiety first before trying pharmaceuticals.
If you are looking for a quick fix, I’m afraid you might be disappointed. Things as complex as mental health don’t get better overnight, even with prescription strength medication. Children take time to heal from anxiety in mind, body, and soul, whatever methods you’re using.
What is anxiety?
Back in our species’ caveman days, we relied heavily on our instincts. We needed that ‘fight’ or ‘flight’ response to help us cope with saber toothed tigers and rampaging rhinos. This response is actually a chemical chain reaction in our bodies. We’re flooded with hormones that either give us the strength to fight or run away as fast as we can.
Nowadays, we still have these helpful instincts. They help us avoid modern dangers like car crashes or muggers. Unfortunately, these instincts can get triggered by things that aren’t imminent danger, like a test, public speaking, or social interactions. In short, non-habitual contexts, these kinds of fears and anxieties are not a problem. Regular anxieties become a disorder when they have a serious negative impact on multiple areas of someone’s life.
There are different kinds of anxiety disorders, too. The most common ones in children are obsessive compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, social anxiety disorder, phobias, and general anxiety disorder. All involve unpleasant, negative, or intrusive thoughts, often accompanied by physical symptoms like racing heart, digestion problems, and trouble sleeping. Many times, children with anxiety disorders go to extreme lengths to avoid situations that trigger those uncomfortable feelings or symptoms. They might skip classes, throw tantrums, or lie to their parents if it helps.
Natural Remedies for Anxiety in Children
The following are all examples of ways I’ve helped students who suffered from anxiety. I used many of these strategies and remedies through their IEP plan and on the advice of their parents. Whichever remedy or combination of remedies you choose, be consistent and stick with it for a while. Jumping around from one ‘trick’ to another will likely only stress your child out more.
If your child knows how to write, journaling can be a great natural remedy. The only cost is the price of a notebook or workbook, and the payout can be enormous.
Writing in something like a worry book helps children identify their triggers and list resources they can turn to when anxious. Journaling can also help remind children of past wins
I’ve talked more about some breathing methods in activities for children with anxiety, but this point is worth repeating. Having a child focus on breathing slow and steady “tricks” the body into managing anxiety faster. Anxiety forces the body to take short, quick breaths, to prepare to fight or flee. Slow breathing helps the body override that physical symptom, which helps the mind overcome those uncomfortable thoughts and feelings.
Spending time with animals
One of the best methods of natural remedies for anxiety in children was to bring animals into my classroom. We occasionally were allowed to bring in pets from home, like a student’s hedgehog or hamster. I also had a social worker with a certified therapy dog who spent a semester with us.
There’s something about spending time with a creature who doesn’t judge which helps boost your mood. Taking care of an animal can also help children feel responsible and important, which contributes to a better overall self-image.
Have you ever muttered something under your breath, only to hear your child parrot those words back at you? The way we talk to ourselves is important! It contributes to our self-image and can help us cope better with those uncomfortable feelings of anxiety.
Children with anxiety often say things like “I can’t do it,” or “I’m not good enough.” This makes it difficult for them to face their anxieties and overcome them. Instead, help empower your kids!
You can help your child develop this skill by talking positively to yourself out loud. When you break a dish, instead of calling yourself an idiot, you can say something like, “Oh man, I made a mistake. But it’s ok to make mistakes and I’ll try better next time.” Or if you swerve to avoid a car on the highway, you can say “wow, that was scary! But I drove safely and we’re all OK. I’m going to keep driving home now.”
Honestly, it sounds a little silly to write, and even sillier to say out loud. But watch your child’s ability to handle anxiety-inducing situations soar with a little practice in positive self-talk.
Physical exercise is SO important to overall good health, but it plays a special role in helping our children overcome anxiety. Firstly, it trigger their brains to release feel-good chemicals which help fight anxiety. Secondly, it helps with sleep regulation. Finally, playing games or sports with other children also helps children’s social wellbeing.
Brains that are low on sleep are not primed to handle difficult emotions or thoughts with grace. This is especially hard because anxiety often makes it hard to sleep, between racing thoughts or fears.
I’ve written about all the parts of a healthy sleep hygiene routine before. Feel free to check out more in-depth thoughts.
Obviously, this is also part of healthy sleep. However, it deserves its own spot on this list of natural remedies for anxiety in children. Caffeine can really mess with a child’s chemical balance, as it produces symptoms similar to anxiety. You really want to help your child avoid anything that will increase their heart rate, nervousness, and restlessness. (Pro-tip: check your child’s soda, energy water, pain relievers, chocolate, ice cream, and other foods for hidden caffeine.)
This means different things to different people, but at its core the suggestion is to quiet your mind. Meditation, yoga, and prayer can all be methods of mindfulness. Some suggest “emptying” your mind and thinking of nothing, others have you focus on a word, image, or idea.
Regardless of the method you choose, mindfulness gives your child a chance to practice controlling their thoughts in calm moments. Many kids practice before bed or upon waking. This practice helps them better handle their anxious thoughts in moments of distress.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (and others)
You’d be hard-pressed to find a better natural remedy for anxiety than therapy. It’s drug free but hope-filled. If you do this with a trained therapist, you get expert advice. However, there are a number of workbooks available to walk you through some activities:
- CBT Toolbox for Children and Adolescents: Over 200 Worksheets & Exercises for Trauma, ADHD, Autism, Anxiety, Depression & Conduct Disorders
- CBT Workbook for Kids: 40+ Fun Exercises and Activities to Help Children Overcome Anxiety & Face Their Fears at Home, at School, and Out in the World
- The CBT Toolbox for Depressed, Anxious & Suicidal Children and Adolescents
- CBT Doodling for Kids: 50 Illustrated Handouts to Help Build Confidence and Emotional Resilience in Children Aged 6–11
Love can’t solve all of your child’s problems, but it actually plays a part. In order to fight anxiety effectively, kids need to know they have loved ones in their corner. Parents are obviously the cornerstone of their support network, but other teachers, neighbors, grandparents, siblings, and friends are good additions.
For more reading on this topic:
- Help My Child Focus Naturally: 5 Tried and True Strategies for Home
- Sanity-Saving Activities for Children with Anxiety
- 15 Sensory Toys for Autism, Anxiety, and ADHD
- 6 Helpful Resources for a Child with Anxiety
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.