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Family Files

Helping children deal with anxiety

When adults are stressed or anxious about our day to day lives and activities, we can find ways to cope through multiple outlets. Exercise, meditation, diet changes, sleep patterns, and venting to those around us are only a few examples of options to relieve stress. Children, on the other hand, need help to alleviate their stress and anxiety. According to Dr. Amy Przeworski of Case Western Reserve University, anywhere from 10% - 20% of school-aged children show symptoms of anxiety. To be sure your children are handling their stress in a healthy way, here are a few tips to try! 


Encourage your child to face their fears.  When encouraging your child to face their fears, be sure to support them each step of the way. In anxiety-provoking situations, it is easy to avoid the problem and dismiss the idea of facing the underlying stress. As they begin facing their fears, they will learn that anxiety will fade away naturally. 


Remind them it is okay to not be perfect and that everyone makes mistakes. Children compare themselves to their peers and often critique what they do not feel is “good enough.” Sports can quickly become too competitive for them to enjoy, and school can lead to them focusing on receiving the best grade possible rather than enjoying the learning process. Reminding them that their best is always enough can boost their confidence and reduce their stress. 


Focus on being positive and being optimistic. When we model a positive attitude and work on having an optimistic outlook on life, our children will quickly start to model that behavior, too. By using a “glass half full” perspective in situations that may cause anxiety, your child may start finding the positivity in stressful moments rather than their feelings of discomfort. 


Schedule relaxing activities to do with them. Give your child the opportunity to play strictly for fun. Arts and crafts, playing outside, board games, or even yoga are all relaxing activities to try together. 


Be sure to model self-care and a positive attitude. When you model a healthy self-care routine, your child will likely want to do the same.  


Reward their brave behaviors. As your child stands up to their fears and the things that give them anxiety, reward them for doing so. This not only shows your support but gives them the positive reinforcement they may need to do it again in the future.  


Help them with problem solving.  As stressful situations come and go, try helping your child find the solution to their anxiety. What in that moment is causing them to become anxious, and how can we help it go away? Understanding why they feel uncomfortable can help when talking about the situation and finding a solution. 


While using these tips, keep in mind that it is not about getting rid of the child’s anxiety but helping them cope and learn new skills to manage their anxiety. For more information, tips, and tricks, please visit our website


Written By:  Kelly McCasland, Family Life Intern, Human Services Program Administration, Eastern Illinois University