With the beginning of a new school year, parents and kids alike start to feel the pressure: pressure to perform, pressure to fit the societal mold, pressure to uphold a strict schedule. Some kids take this pressure more seriously than others and begin to internalize fear. Anxiety can rear its ugly head in many different ways, making it difficult for a parent to identify and to help the child cope. As parents, all we want is to raise resilient, Godly, strong world changers, but they can’t be those things if they are not equipped with the tools to overcome obstacles.
If your child is struggling with anxiety, they could have a wide array of struggles such as: having difficulty sleeping, intolerance of changes in schedule, avoiding activities or events (such as school or social situations), having a need to control other people or events, crying or difficulty managing big emotions, having high or unrealistic expectations of themselves, or even physiological symptoms such as constant stomachaches or headaches. All of these symptoms of anxiety can make it difficult for kids to function in school as well as at home. So how can we help as parents? How can we help our children to walk in a spirit of peace, not of anxiety?
Calm The Body
I would say the first step to easing anxiety is to help your kiddo recognize what it feels like in their body. Help them understand cues in their body that let them know they are anxious. This could include sweaty palms, stomachache, racing heart, tight throat, racing mind, or a feeling of having a weight on their chest. If kids can learn their triggers or cues, it can increase their sense of empowerment over their anxiety, leaving them feeling less helpless. Before kids can learn anything else about what is causing their anxiety or how to dispute their anxious thoughts, they have to learn to calm their body down. Think about it: if you, as an adult, are overwhelmed, flooded with emotion, and have all the physical cues that go along with anxiety, are you able to have a deep and meaningful conversation with a friend? Absolutely not, because your brain is in fight or flight and is not able to reason. Some great self-regulation strategies to calm the body are:
- Deep Breathing (in for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, out for 4 seconds)
- 5-4-3-2-1 Grounding Technique: Notice 5 things you see, 4 things you can feel, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, 1 thing positive about yourself
- Yoga Poses
- Sensory Calm Down Kit
- Drawing or Coloring
- Building something with Legos
- Wall Push Ups
- Stress Balls
Pinterest is an excellent resource for coming up with fun visuals and ideas to implement these strategies!
The next step would be to help them take their thoughts captive. Talk about those situations that are anxiety-provoking and figure out what the enemy is telling them: “I’m not strong enough to handle this,” “I’m not going to make friends,” “The other kids won’t like me,” “I’m going to get hurt,” or “I’m not going to succeed.” Most likely, those things they are telling themselves during their moments of high anxiety are irrational and not truth-based. Having kids journal their anxious thoughts creates awareness and gives an opportunity to speak truth over those lies.
I’ve found that having kids write down their anxious thoughts, then turning them around and writing “antidotes” or truths about who they are in Christ to dispute those anxious thoughts is so powerful. Teaching kids this powerful tool of recognizing the lies anxiety speaks and speaking truth over themselves is so valuable and creates a sense of empowerment. So often, kids (and adults) believe they are just a victim to their thoughts and feelings, but God tells us we are conquerors and have the ability to change those thoughts that lead to high anxiety!
My favorite antidotes for anxious thoughts:
I am strong: Psalm 92:10 “Your anointing has made me strong and mighty. You’ve empowered my life for triumph by pouring fresh oil over me.”
I am brave: Psalms 27:14 “Here’s what I’ve learned through it all: Don’t give up; don’t be impatient; be entwined as one with the Lord. Be brave and courageous, and never lose hope. Yes, keep on waiting—for he will never disappoint you!”
I am free: Galatians 5:1 “Let me be clear, the Anointed One has set us free—not partially, but completely and wonderfully free! We must always cherish this truth and stubbornly refuse to go back into the bondage of our past.”
I have control of my mind: 2 Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us a Spirit of fear and timidity but of power, love and self-discipline” and Philippians 4:8 “So keep your thoughts continually fixed on all that is authentic and real, honorable and admirable, beautiful and respectful, pure and holy, merciful and kind. And fasten your thoughts on every Glorious work of God, praising him always.”
I am a conqueror: Romans 8:37 “Yet even in the midst of all these triumphs, we triumph over them all for God has made us to be MORE than conquerors and his demonstrated love is our glorious victory over everything.”
The Lord is my helper: Deuteronomy 31:6 “So be strong and courageous, do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”
As we return to the school year routine, be on guard for anxiousness that might creep into your children’s lives. Pray these scriptures over them. Talk to them about what anxiety is and how they can combat it. And above all, use this as an opportunity to point your kids to the love, grace, and mercy of our Savior.
We would like to thank Macy Williams for writing this post!