Strategies that will help you intervene when anxiety is present
Have you always known how to intervene with an anxious child? As I’ve mentioned before, anxiety has always been beyond my comfort zone. For a long time, I had no idea how to deal with it and I felt like I was ill-equipped to do so. However, after signing up for a course on the subject, I am proud to say that I now have several interventions and strategies up my sleeve for helping an anxious child. In this article, I would like to share 10 strategies that may help you intervene efficiently the next time you are faced with an anxious child.
Having a positive and comforting attitude that respects the child’s regression and rhythm is of utmost importance to help her face an anxiety-provoking situation.
Simplifying the child’s daily schedule, leaving more room for free play, and leaving time for breaks between activities can help reduce the child’s manifestations of stress or anxiety. Avoid a packed schedule that leaves little time for the child to breathe and regroup.
Encourage an anxious child to be autonomous and accompany her whenever necessary. Help the child face a situation that causes anxiousness.
Help a child who tends to dramatize situations to think about examples of past successes, occasions where she was able to overcome an anxious feeling. Ask questions, help the child recall facts and details, and bring her to realize that she was able to overcome a similar situation before and she can therefore do it again.
Help the child focus on the “here and now”. Anxiety is caused by all the scenarios the child may imagine for the future, all the possible outcomes for a situation. Encourage her to concentrate on what she is doing in the present moment. Help the child direct her energy on what is within her control, what she has the power to change, and encourage the child to let go of everything else.
As much as possible, aim to have a daily routine that is both stable and predictable. Unforeseen activities and sudden activity changes are a part of life, but they are also elements that can generate stress and anxiety. Having a stable routine will help an anxious child feel safe and therefore allow her to be open to different learning opportunities.
Inform an anxious child of any changes ahead of time. For example, during your morning circle time, tell children about any new events that have been added to your daily schedule. Add these events to your visual schedule or message board displayed within your daycare.
Include relaxation activities in your daily routine. Yoga, visualization exercises, and massages can all help an anxious child calm down.
During a stressful or anxiety-provoking situation, encourage the child to take deep breaths. Three big breaths can suffice to calm an anxious child. Perform the breathing exercise with the child. You will also enjoy its physical and mental benefits.
Watch for an upcoming article in which I will share more interesting anxiety-reducing tools.
Maude Dubé, Specialized educator