Mind and Media

Coping Skills for Anxiety in Kids

By April 16, 2018 No Comments

It’s happening again. Your daughter is frustrated and stomping away down to her room, slamming the door and in general “has her cranky pants on”. You say calm down, but she yells back “I don’t know how to do that!!!” We tend to tell our kids to “calm down” without ever giving them explicit directions on how to deal with stress and anxiety. Here’s a collection of tools and tips to teach children how to calm down and relax.


1. Quick Ways to Calm Down:

Sometimes you’ll need a quick way to help your child calm down and you don’t have much with you. Maybe it’s when you’re out shopping or stuck in traffic. These tips will come in handy at those times:

  • Imagine your favourite place – it’s like taking a mini holiday wherever you are
  • Think of your favourite things
  • Name animals alphabetically (alligator, bear, cow, dog, etc…)
  • Squeeze Something (play dough, clay, silly putty, your fists, a stress ball)
  • Get a Cold Drink of Water
  • Give yourself a hug – squeeze tight!
  • Remember the words to a song you love
  • Put your arms straight out in front of you, palms facing out.
  • Put one hand over the other at the wrists and interlace your fingers.
  • Swoop your hands and arms toward your body and then place your interlaced hands on your chest.
  • Cross your feet at the ankles and put your tongue on the roof of your mouth.
  • Stay still for one minute.


2. Deep Breathing:

People usually roll their eyes initially when they hear “breathing is important”. But I will continue to say it and explain why. It’s so simple, yet has such a big impact on your body’s physiology.

When you are calm and relaxed, your body is in “rest and digest” mode. You breathe normally, your heart rate is lower and your muscles are relaxed. However, when stress or anxiety or anger occurs, your body automatically switches into “flight, fight or freeze” mode. Your muscles tense up, your heart rate increases and your breathing becomes more shallow. 

Taking deep breaths, instead of shallow breaths, is one way to tell your body to get back to resting and digesting. That’s why deep breathing is important!

Luckily, there are some fun ways to teach kids deep breathing techniques

Things to use:

  • Bubbles
  • Feathers
  • Pinwheels
  • Stuffed animals
  • Dandelions
  • Deep breathing using shapes

2 b) Things to say:

Breathe in like you are smelling a flower, breathe out like you are blowing out birthday candles

Arms up and breathe in, arms down and breathe out

Pretend your belly is a balloon. Breathe in and make the balloon bigger, then breathe out and make the balloon shrink.


3. Make a Coping Skills Toolbox:

A Coping Skills Toolbox is a kit that you create to help your child calm down when they are upset, anxious or worried. In order to get the most benefit from this, you should create this kit before an issue occurs. When your child experiences anxiety, then they can pick out an item from their Coping Skills Toolbox. This is one of my favourite ways to help kids learn to calm their anxiety.

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