14. “Let’s count _____.”
This distraction technique requires no advance preparation. Counting the number of people wearing boots, the number of watches, the number of kids, or the number of hats in the room requires observation and thought, both of which detract from the anxiety your child is feeling.
15. “I need you to tell me when 2 minutes have gone by.”
Time is a powerful tool when children are anxious. By watching a clock or a watch for movement, a child has a focus point other than what is happening.
16. “Close your eyes. Picture this…”
Visualization is a powerful technique used to ease pain and anxiety. Guide your child through imagining a safe, warm, happy place where they feel comfortable. If they are listening intently, the physical symptoms of anxiety will dissipate.
17. “I get scared/nervous/anxious sometimes too. It’s no fun.”
Empathy wins in many, many situations. It may even strike up a conversation with your older child about how you overcame anxiety.
18. “Let’s pull out our calm-down checklist.”
Anxiety can hijack the logical brain; carry a checklist with coping skills your child has practiced. When the need presents itself, operate off of this checklist.
19. “You are not alone in how you feel.”
Pointing out all of the people who may share their fears and anxieties helps your child understand that overcoming anxiety is universal.
20. “Tell me the worst thing that could possibly happen.”
Once you’ve imagined the worst possible outcome of the worry, talk about the likelihood of that worst possible situation happening. Next, ask your child about the best possible outcome. Finally, ask them about the most likely outcome. The goal of this exercise is to help a child think more accurately during their anxious experience.
21. “Worrying is helpful, sometimes.”
This seems completely counter-intuitive to tell a child that is already anxious, but pointing out why anxiety is helpful reassures your children that there isn’t something wrong with them.
22. “What does your thought bubble say?”
If your children read comics, they are familiar with thought bubbles and how they move the story along. By talking about their thoughts as third-party observers, they can gain perspective on them.
23. “Let’s find some evidence.”
Collecting evidence to support or refute your child’s reasons for anxiety helps your children see if their worries are based on fact.
24. “Let’s have a debate.”
Older children especially love this exercise because they have permission to debate their parent. Have a point, counter-point style debate about the reasons for their anxiety. You may learn a lot about their reasoning in the process.
25. “What is the first piece we need to worry about?”
Anxiety often makes mountains out of molehills. One of the most important strategies for overcoming anxiety is to break the mountain back down into manageable chunks. In doing this, we realize the entire experience isn’t causing anxiety, just one or two parts.
26. “Let’s list all of the people you love.”
Anais Nin is credited with the quote, “Anxiety is love’s greatest killer.” If that statement is true, then love is anxiety’s greatest killer as well. By recalling all of the people that your child loves and why, love will replace anxiety.
27. “Remember when…”
Competence breeds confidence. Confidence quells anxiety. Helping your children recall a time when they overcame anxiety gives them feelings of competence and thereby confidence in their abilities.
28. “I am proud of you already.”
Knowing you are pleased with their efforts, regardless of the outcome, alleviates the need to do something perfectly – a source of stress for a lot of kids.
29. “We’re going for a walk.”
Exercise relieves anxiety for up to several hours as it burns excess energy, loosens tense muscles and boosts mood. If your children can’t take a walk right now, have them run in place, bounce on a yoga ball, jump rope or stretch.