As an adult living with anxiety, I know how difficult and paralyzing it can be. When what I want most is to calm down…I can’t calm down. So when I think about parents who deal with anxiety in kids, well, both they and their kids have my sympathy. Anxiety in kids can be heartbreaking for parents, especially if it’s chronic, and it can be hard for us to know how to help them.
My youngest has some situational anxiety that he seems to be growing out of (large groups, birthday parties) and for the longest time, I really didn’t know how to encourage him before the event when he expressed nervousness. Then, a few days ago, a friend pointed me to this Facebook video from motivational speaker and author Mel Robbins. In the video, she coaches a mom to help her anxious child through their anxiety by coming up with a system that involves writing down what situations give them anxiety and then coming up with some “anchor thoughts” to help them get excited about the event.
Watch Mel Robbins’ brilliant mom hack to diffuse anxiety in kids
The example of this technique Robbins gives is a sleepover. So when making a list of things your child is nervous about you would write “sleepover.” Then for the anchor thought, you want to come up with something about that same event that makes your child excited.
Robbins stresses that if you already have these anchor thoughts written down before hand, if gives your child a “go to” when they are experiencing anxiety.
Example: I’m nervous about the sleepover because I’ll be away from home.
Anchor thought: I’m excited about having donuts for breakfast the morning after the sleepover.
Using this technique, I decided to come up with some more anchor thoughts for situations kids might be experiencing anxiety about. I’ll list a few of them here in the hopes that they will help you and your child deal with an anxiety situation in the future.
Situation: I feel nervous about the first day of school.
Anchor thought: I’m excited because I get to see my friends again!
Situation: I feel nervous about the loud singing at the birthday party.
Anchor thought: I’m excited because I get to eat cake and ice cream!
Situation: I feel nervous about staying with the babysitter while mom and dad go on a date.
Anchor thought: I’m excited to stay up late and watch a movie!