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How to Treat Anxiety in a Child Naturally


Treating childhood anxiety naturally starts with understanding the causes. Learn what you can at home to alleviate your child's anxiety.

Experiencing the occasional bout of worry and fear is part of being human. Both adults and children may be afraid of a big, barking dog, for example, just as both may feel a little nervous around new people.

But what if your child is increasingly demonstrating signs of persistent anxiety—so much so that it’s causing them to act out or withdraw and cause you a great deal of worry?

First, know that neither you nor your child are alone: Research shows that anxiety occurs in as many as one in eight children. What’s more, there are plenty of ways you can help your child manage their anxiety and discover emotional well-being.

Read on for our full guide on treating childhood anxiety naturally and how establishing effective strategies at a young age can help your anxious child flourish now and throughout life. 

What Causes Anxiety in Children? 

Technically defined as fears and worries that interfere with a child’s daily life for six months or longer, childhood anxiety can be triggered by any number of reasons. A few of the most common include:

  • Big and small transitions – As you know, children thrive on structure. Events and circumstances that interrupt what they’ve come to know and expect can throw naturally sensitive children off, such as the introduction of a new baby to the family, moving into a new home, or attending school for the first time. And yet, it can also involve everyday transitions, like being told it’s time to leave the park or another caregiver arriving home after work. That’s why it’s so important to have transition strategies to help your child during these difficult moments.

  • Genetics – Anxiety is believed to have a strong genetic link. Meaning if you’re prone to anxiety, or your child’s biological parent(s) are, your child might be at a higher risk of developing it as well. On this note, keep in mind that children are heavily influenced by those closest to them. Being around others who are generally fearful and anxious can provoke the same feelings in your kid.

  • Fear of the unknown – As your child grows and learns more about the world around them, so do their imaginations and fears. Some have a fear of the dark or ghosts, which is quite common. Other fears, like a catastrophe or being in crowded spaces, may be substantially more stressful for an anxious child. This may be compounded by the fact that children are smaller in stature and, really, have no real control of the world they’re just beginning to navigate.

  • Fortunately, parents and caregivers are in a prime position to teach children how to acknowledge and accept these tricky feelings—a topic we’ll explore at length below.


    What Are the Symptoms of Childhood Anxiety? 

    Childhood anxiety often manifests both behaviorally and physically: 

    Behavioral Indicators

    It can be difficult to distinguish anxiety from the rollercoaster of emotions children demonstrate as their prefrontal cortex develops. Still, we recommend keeping an eye out for anxiety symptoms in your young child, such as:

    • Clinging
    • Crying more frequently
    • Becoming easily angered or frustrated
    • Having difficulty concentrating, whether it’s on a puzzle or a movie
    • Eating very little or eating more than usual
    • Withdrawing from you, friends, schoolmates, and family members
    • Exhibiting restlessness
    • Refusing to go to school or on playdates

    Physical Symptoms

    Physically, your child’s anxiety may announce itself in the form of:

    • Shaking and tremors
    • Sweating
    • Fainting
    • Sleeping troubles, such as insomnia and nightmares
    • Frequent tummy aches, headaches, and other instances of not feeling well 
    • Using the bathroom more often than usual

    Every child is unique, so naturally, your child’s anxiety might make itself known in ways not listed here. For example, if your child gets anxious when you leave, they may be suffering from separation anxiety. If your child is not showing the typical signs of secure attachment in toddlers, it may mean anxiety is brewing below the surface. The important thing to keep in mind is that you know your young child best—and can recognize when something is amiss. 

    Natural Approaches to Treating Childhood Anxiety 

    Luckily, we live in an era where anxiety has never been better understood. This paves the way for you to take the reins on your child’s anxiety. In addition to educating yourself on childhood anxiety (in part to calm your own fears), we recommend trying these tips.

    Reading Slumberkins Books for Emotional Exploration

    Social emotional books can be a blessing for an anxious child (or any child who needs encouragement to embrace the big feelings they’re just learning to cope with). Plus, these books also help foster emotional literacy in kids as well.

    One of the most helpful characters in Slumberkins’ suite of emotional well-being products for kids is Alpaca, who provides kids with an easy-to-understand perspective on stress relief and shows children that they can share their concerns with their loved ones. 

    Promoting a Healthy Lifestyle

    A wholesome lifestyle is vital to all children, but it’s especially critical for children with anxiety who need a strong foundation to manage the distressing feelings they encounter and to aid in their physical and cognitive development. 

    With this in mind, you may want to ensure your child:

    • Follows a nutrient-rich diet that includes a range of fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and protein
    • Obtains adequate exercise 
    • Receives sufficient quality sleep
    • Is exposed to limited screen time: online content, video games, and more may exacerbate their anxiety 

    Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques

    We might typically associate yoga and mindfulness with ways to unwind in adulthood, but more and more caregivers are embracing the idea for their children, especially if their child is suffering from an anxiety disorder. 

    Why? Because relaxation techniques mindfulness for kids like deep breathing, stretching, and yoga poses can:

    • Fortify the mind-body connection, which may enable kids to recognize (and label) mental and physical anxiety symptoms—and encourage them to manage them through turning to a loved one and building connections or self-soothing practices.
    • Recenter your child’s mind on the present rather than the vast (and often scary) unknown.
    • Foster stress management by teaching children how to physically release bottled-up tension.
    • Build confidence and resilience in your young child.

    Encouraging Open Communication and Emotional Expression 

    On the topic of connection: It’s one of the keys to alleviating your child’s anxiety naturally. By providing your child with a space to explore their feelings openly and honestly, they’ll be reminded that they’re safe, secure, and loved. What’s more, playing down or dismissing your child’s anxiety may make them feel guilty, ashamed, or confused, all of which might worsen their angst.

    Creating a Calming Environment

    A soothing environment is crucial to treating childhood anxiety naturally, particularly if your child grows more fearful and anxious around loud noises, social situations, or the like. We recommend:

    • Decluttering your home (maybe with your child’s help!), which can heighten stress and anxiety for children and adults
    • Enstating a daily “quiet time” in your household, such as making sure that your television is off by 8pm
    • Addressing anxiety-inducing, repetitive noises, like a humming refrigerator or a leaky faucet
    • Playing soft, soothing music
    • Insisting (and assisting with) keeping your child’s sleeping space clean, quiet, and clutter-free
    • Dedicating (if possible) part of your home to quiet, self-reflective activities like reading and playing with toys, and/or an area where your child can exercise or play indoors 

    Promoting Positive Coping Mechanisms

    Children learn primarily through observations and the behaviors that are modeled to them. 

    In other words, showing your child how to cope with their anxiety through your own smart, stress-busting tactics may inspire them to follow suit. This may be openly stating when you’re feeling anxious and meditating for a few minutes until it passes or suggesting healthy activities to redirect your child’s attention when they’re feeling overwhelmed. 

    This could be:

    • Reading
    • Coloring
    • Playing outside
    • Going to the park 
    • Assisting with household chores

    Exploring Creative Arts Therapy Techniques 

    Art therapy has long been one of the most effective methods for navigating fears, worries, and stress—and it may be particularly valuable for children who are either resistant to verbally expressing themselves or are unable to. Not only can art urge your child to stay in the present moment, but it can also be deeply calming. 

    Further, “art” is anything that stokes your child’s creativity and imagination, such as:

    • Dancing
    • Drawing
    • Finger painting
    • Coloring
    • Singing
    • Playing an instrument

    The finished “product” or performance shouldn’t matter, and you might try telling that to your child. What does matter is that your child has a safe, nourishing space to express what’s bothering them.

    Collaborating with Healthcare Professionals

    While all of these practices on how to treat anxiety in a child naturally may be scientifically backed and widely helpful, there may come a time when your child’s anxiety disorder requires professional guidance. What this looks like may vary from child to child. However, you may want to reach out to your pediatrician or a mental health professional if:

    • Your child’s anxiety doesn’t improve and, in fact,  grows worse over time
    • You think your child’s anxiety may be causing or aggravating a medical condition (such as an increase in stomach aches and digestive problems)
    • Your child develops other behavioral problems

    Additionally, if something especially troublesome has recently occurred in your child’s life, like the death of a loved one, we suggest considering the benefits of working with a child therapist. 

    Last but not least, make sure you’re taking care of yourself, too, by asking for support when you need it and taking time to decompress. If you are an overstimulated parent who suffers from anxious feelings as well, make sure you continue to prioritize your mental health. Doing so will ultimately help you and your child.

    Build Emotional Resilience in Your Child with Slumberkins

    Witnessing your child wrestle with anxiety can be a hard experience for caregivers, to say nothing of its potential to amplify your worries. Fortunately, anxiety is manageable, and the earlier you start helping your child craft healthy coping strategies, the better prepared they’ll be for a lifetime defined by emotional resilience.

    Consider Slumberkins your partner on the journey. Our collection of social emotional books, toys, and kits are designed to foster precisely what we hope to instill in our children: Confidence, empathy, and happiness. 

    Explore our products today so that your child can explore their inner world in the most delightful way possible. 

     

    Sources: 


    National Library of Medicine. Anxiety in children. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK476265/


    Cleveland Clinic. Anxiety in children. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/anxiety-in-children


    WebMD. Depression and anxiety: are they hereditary? https://www.webmd.com/depression/are-depression-anxiety-hereditary


    Nemours KidsHealth. Anxiety disorders. https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/anxiety-disorders.html


    Healthline. Natural remedies for anxiety in children 

    https://www.healthline.com/health/childrens-health/ways-to-calm-child-anxiety


    First Five Years. 3 reasons why children have big feelings. 

    https://www.firstfiveyears.org.au/child-development/3-reasons-why-children-have-big-feelings#


    Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience. Healthy lifestyle interventions augmenting psychotherapy in anxiety and PTSD. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10561983/


    Parents. 11 benefits of yoga for kids. https://www.parents.com/benefits-of-yoga-for-kids-7406600


    Abilities.com. Make your home stress-free for kids with anxiety. 

    https://www.abilities.com/community/kids-with-anxiety.html


    Forbes. Dear pediatrician: how do you relieve anxiety in children?

    https://www.forbes.com/health/family/relieve-anxiety-in-children/


    Uncommon Sense Parenting with Allana Robinson. Early childhood theories: Albert Bandura. 

    https://www.allanarobinson.com/early-childhood-theories-albert-bandura/





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