6 Ways to Help a Child with Anxiety
December 2020

Digital Only

6 Ways to Help a Child with Anxiety

Parents can help a struggling child through a variety of resources and strategies.

mother and son facing each other holding hands

Having a child who is working through anxiety can be a significant challenge for parents. But God has promised that He will help parents who are striving to help their children grow physically, intellectually, spiritually, socially, and emotionally.1

Children and youth will experience worry and fear as they grow and process new experiences. But feeling worried or fearful is not the same as having clinical anxiety. If worry becomes excessive and consistent, a parent can seek professional help.

Regardless of the level of worry, distress, and anxiety, parents can use the following ideas to help their child process anxiety:

  1. Allow your child to worry. No child stops worrying because someone tells him or her to stop worrying. Worry plays an important part in a child’s life. Giving your child uninterrupted time to vent can help you start brainstorming solutions together.

  2. Have a discussion with your child rather than lecture. When anxiety spikes, children can get caught in “what-ifs” and “I-can’ts.” A parent can help a child identify their emotions and talk through them.

  3. Provide your child with tools. The following ideas can help your child process and work through what he or she is feeling. Use “Facing Challenges: A Self-Help Guide” to build more strategies.

    • Practice deep breathing.

    • Squeeze a stress ball.

    • Write feelings down. This is not for family history. Write to process the emotion. Be honest in your writing. You can even throw it away afterward.

    • Talk back to the worries and reframe them. Your worry may not be real. Or, if it is, you may be overemphasizing it. How can you look at the cause of your worry in a more helpful way?

    • Get help from a friend. Discussing challenges with trusted friends can build strong support.

  4. Teach your child to practice self-care.Good self-care can improve our ability to handle anxiety. Focus on the following basic health needs:

    • Get enough sleep consistently.

    • Eat healthy meals.

    • Drink plenty of water.

    • Schedule downtime to decompress.

    • Get outdoor free play.

    • Exercise daily.

  5. Empathize often with your child. “Empathy is the ability to sense others’ emotions and understand what they might be thinking or feeling. Empathy is not simply feeling for someone but feeling with them.”2 Acknowledge their feelings. If they are overwhelmed or scared, just sitting with them can be helpful.

  6. Recognize the difference between perfectionism and wanting to be worthy. Help your child understand that perfectionism is often born of fear rather than love—fear of shame, fear of failure, fear of punishment, fear of disapproval or disappointment. This can happen when we misunderstand what the Lord expects of us. This can lead us to look “beyond the mark” (Jacob 4:14)—setting expectations for ourselves beyond what the Lord has set and tormenting ourselves unnecessarily when we don’t meet them.

    The desire to be worthy, on the other hand, often comes from our love of God and a sense of His love for us. It leads us down the path of obedience, covenants, and repentance. It is a desire to become perfect as the Savior has invited us to do (see Matthew 5:48). It means striving to be humble and to “deny [ourselves] of all ungodliness” so that we can be perfected in Jesus Christ by His grace (see Moroni 10:32).