Learn effective and loving ways on how to cope with an anxious toddler or child.
Is your child struggling with anxiety?
Are you racking your brains trying to think of something more helpful to say than ‘it’ll be OK’?
I hear you, mama!
Starting preschool, saying goodnight, even just letting go of mom’s hand, can all be triggers for your child’s anxiety.
Of course, some anxiety is normal – and it can be a positive emotion when we’re dealing with unusual stressful situations. But when anxiety strikes often – sometimes without any identifiable reason – it can be overwhelming for your child and for you.
And there’s no quick fix.
Helping your child deal with anxious behavior can take a lot of time and patience.
So here are ten simple, mom-approved and loving tips that can help you support your anxious child.
1. Give Your Child A Comfort Object
If you’ve ever looked into sleep training, you might have read about comfort objects. Also known as ‘transitional’ objects or loveys.
A comfort object can be something like a stuffed toy, a doll, or even a piece of fabric from a favorite blanket.
But the important thing is that your toddler has something to keep with them wherever they go.
My daughter is obsessed with stuffies and we can’t go anywhere without a stuffed unicorn or puppy.
So this comfort object is something familiar your toddler can hang onto during anxious situations.
Kelly from Happy Family, Happy You, has shared about how a comfort object worked for her daughter when she was suffering from separation anxiety due to shared custody.
2. Don’t Belittle Their Anxiety
Have you ever said something like, ‘It’s Ok. There’s nothing to worry about.’
I know I have!
As moms we just want to reassure our anxious little ones that everything is Ok.
And we know that everything is going to be Ok. But to them, this worry is very real. So dismissing their fears, or trying to use cold, hard logic, just isn’t going to work.
And, even worse, Raluca from Playful Notes believes that dismissing your child’s fears like this actually creates extra stress for them. Because as well as the initial anxiety, now they feel bad about being scared.
I know, ‘It’s Ok’ is going to be a tough phrase for me to drop!
So what can we say instead?
3. Use Supportive Phrases
Family therapist Nicole from Imperfect Families suggests using ‘supportive phrases’ when your child is anxious.
‘Supportive phrases’ show your child that you are facing the fear with them.
She has a list of 13 powerful phrases we can use with our anxious children. And my favorite is ‘tell me about it.’
Isn’t this an awesome way to get your child to open up about their anxiety?
I’m going to use this one next time my anxious child has a worry.
But all children are different and your child might respond to a different supportive phrase. So find what works for your toddler during an anxious situation.
4. Empower Your Child to Comfort Themselves
I love the thought of having a bank of supportive phrases I can use when anxiety strikes.
But what if your child had their own bank of supportive phrases they could use to comfort themselves?
Child therapist Natasha Daniels says that giving your child the tools to cope with their anxiety is more powerful than swooping into save them each time.
So she recommends phrases like, ‘what can you tell yourself that’ll make you less nervous?’ This kind of phrase empowers your anxious child to deal with the stressful situation themselves.
5. Don’t Avoid Stressful Situations
Oh, this is a tough one!
As moms, we don’t want our little ones to experience stress and anxiety. But Mraki Lane explains that avoiding stressful situations is only a short term solution.
And this avoidance doesn’t give our little ones the chance to develop important life-long coping mechanisms.
I can definitely relate to this one!
My son used to be scared of dogs – really scared! And for a long time, we’d cross the street to avoid people walking their dogs.
But this just seemed to make his anxiety about dogs worse.
So we recently tackled this anxiety by introducing him gently to a relative’s dog. And this gave him the chance to be brave and learn more about dogs. He doesn’t love dogs yet. But he’s much less anxious when he sees one now.
6. Practice Mindfulness
I bet you’ve seen a lot of posts about how powerful mindfulness is for moms. But have you thought about introducing your little ones to mindfulness?
Psychologist Karen Young over at Hey Sigmund, suggests some simple mindfulness techniques which can ease anxiety in children.
And this makes a lot of sense doesn’t it?
Because when we’re anxious, our thinking can start to spiral out of control. So keeping your child’s mind in the here and now can be so powerful.
But getting your toddler to do some deep breathing is going to be be difficult, right?
So Kelly from Happy You, Happy Family has shared an awesome trick using a button and a straw. Genius!
But blowing bubbles or a party streamer would work just as well.
7. Make Your Kid a Superhero
Meeting with the bank manager?
We’ve all experienced that kind of stressful situation that make us want to crawl back under the duvet. Right?
But sometimes we just have to take a deep breath, stand up straight, and fake a bit of confidence.
And Natasha Daniels from Anxious Toddlers explains that we can empower our little ones to cope with challenging situations in a similar way by turning them into superheroes.
Yes! Help them create their own power pose, give them a superhero name, and help them defeat that evil worry monster.
This one sounds fun, doesn’t it?
8. Eat well. Sleep well.
Ever notice how everything seems worse when you’re tired? Or hungry?
Katrina from Rule This Roost talks about the challenge of supporting her anxious daughter. And she recommends keeping a close eye on sleep and food triggers.
This is such a simple thing. But it could make a big difference to our anxious children when they’re facing tough situations.
And if you’re stuck for ideas, here’s a list of 85 healthy meal and snack ideas perfect for your hungry toddler.
9. Create a Calm Down Box
When your child is in the grip of anxiety, it can be helpful for them to play with something relaxing.
So why not put together a box filled with calming toys?
This wave bottle looks so relaxing. I think I’ll make one for myself!
A weighted lap pad can help anxious children by providing Deep Pressure Touch Stimulation – like a big hug.
I think it would be useful to have one of these in the car if your little one is anxious on the drive to school or to the dentist’s.
My son has something similar to a globe squeeze ball and he loves it! It keeps his little hands busy while we talk about a worry.
Worry eaters are great for toddlers and can act as their comfort toy.
I’m thinking of getting my kids one of these for when they start school after summer.
10. Read Books About Anxiety With Your Anxious Child
Don’t forget to include some books in your calm down box.
There are so many awesome books to help your child understand and cope with their anxieties.
I’ve had my eye on these recently. Have you read any of them?
Anxious children are great at asking ‘what if?’ questions. And this book helps children tackles this kind of thinking. It would be especially useful if you’re moving house soon!
Don’t let your anxious toddler miss out on fun things because of anxiety. Read about how MJ deals with her worries by taking off her worry glasses. Actually, this one might be a good read for anxious moms too!
‘I Will Be Okay’ looks awesome because it shows what children could do themselves to make anxious situations easier – and develop their own coping mechanisms.
This book is perhaps for older children – 3-9 years. And it’s a great read if you’re helping your child to become a superhero to combat their worries.
And you can learn more about helping your anxious toddler with these recommended books:
This one is getting rave reviews all over!
Written by a neuropsychiatrist and a parenting expert, this book explains how we have an upstairs brain and a downstairs brain. I’m adding this one to my list now!
Natasha Daniels from AnxiousToddlers.com, who we met in tip 7 above, explains why anxious toddlers behave the way they do and offers practical strategies to make every day easier.
If you’re an anxious mom, this next book might teach you a bit about yourself – as well as your anxious toddler!
Written by a highly experienced psychologist, this book might just help you break the cycle.
Learn to Manage Anxious Behaviour in Toddlers
Anxiety can be confusing and distressing for your toddler. And as a mom it’s heartbreaking to see our little ones struggling with anxiety.
But teaching your child some simple coping techniques can help them face anxious situations. And empower them to fight anxiety in later life.
Don’t forget to pin for later!
Over to you! Tell me in the comments – does your little one struggle with anxiety? What things have you tried that have helped – and what definitely hasn’t helped?