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Reducing Anxiety In Children Through Quality Time

Mother and child reading

Living with anxiety as an adult is challenging enough. But for children, the experience can disrupt their well-being and ongoing development. It’s not rare, either. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 9.4% of children in the U.S. were diagnosed with anxiety between 2016 and 2019.

As a parent or caregiver, it’s important to be proactive in addressing childhood anxiety. This begins with gaining an understanding of the signs of anxiety in children, including chronic fatigue, panic attacks, and difficulty focusing. But it’s also wise to become familiar with the full range of treatment options. This isn’t just a case of using medication and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). You can help your child to find peace, calm, confidence, and safety by simply spending time with them.

Let’s examine a few of the approaches you can take to reduce your child’s anxiety through quality time.

Reading Time

Reading is one of the most effective activities in helping to reduce anxiety. It’s calming and can relieve the physical and emotional symptoms of stress. You’ll also find it has more holistic benefits to their wellbeing. Studies have shown that reading to your child from a young age has a significant impact on their development. It boosts their cognitive functioning and improves their language skills. The intimate nature of reading together regularly can strengthen your bond, too, which is crucial in helping your child feel more secure.

Fiction books are considered to be particularly effective in relieving stress and feelings of anxiety. After all, there tends to be less sense of academic pressure from reading non-fiction books as a child. Importantly, fiction can provide a relieving escape from reality while also having a grounding effect. The presence of characters living with a social anxiety disorder may also be useful in helping your child feel less alone with their experiences.

The important thing is to spend quality time with your child while reading. This could take various forms. You can read to your child or take turns in reading a page or a chapter. You could even sit in a room together reading different books, then follow up with time chatting about what you’re reading. It’s not just the act of reading that helps to combat anxiety. When your child feels closer to you throughout these activities, they can feel more supported and comfortable in their environment.

Creative Activities

Creativity is a great method to combat anxiety alongside other mental, emotional, or behavioral challenges children face. It’s also something you can engage in meaningfully as a family. You’ll find this is another area that doubles up as a key development opportunity. This is because creative actions help to foster creative thought in children. This in turn helps them to build their problem-solving skills and innovative abilities. Most importantly from an anxiety perspective, it helps them to discover and establish coping mechanisms early on.

If we look at some of the main symptoms of the condition — lack of focus, fear, restlessness — these are highly energetic and intense experiences. Creative activities can be a good focus for directing and managing the disruptive energy of anxiety. There’s usually a physicality to creative actions your child may find empowering. It helps them express and redistribute their worries. It’s also an activity in which they can feel in control amidst a condition that can often make them feel they have none.

By spending quality time with your child during this process, you can influence how effectively they utilize it. Demonstrate how you personally use the creative activities you enjoy to process the emotions you’re feeling. Use the time you spend together in these activities encouraging openness about thoughts and ideas, then channeling them into a painting, project, or song. However, it’s vital not to impose your specific creative coping actions on your child. Rather, help them to discover methods of creativity that work best for them. This exploration isn’t just mentally healthy, it’s a fun creative adventure. 

Daily Communication

Quality time doesn’t necessarily have to mean committing to a lengthy activity. You can make use of short periods of time together with simple actions on a regular basis. One of the most valuable approaches to this is through making time for daily communication with your child. Anxiety often breeds in silence and if your child feels they can’t talk about their emotions, this can exacerbate the stress and worry they feel.

This isn’t necessarily about scheduling family meetings in which you all talk about the big topics in one another’s lives. Just make sure there are moments each day in which you and your child can have conversations. Discuss your day during mealtimes, chat on the way to school, take a walk in the park and share your thoughts. Make the idea of communicating openly and honestly a part of your lives. This may seem like a simple and obvious step, but it’s something many families really struggle with. 

It’s also important to talk about emotions as much as the events of the day. Remember to give something of yourself rather than just expecting your child to talk. You don’t need to share anything that isn’t age-appropriate or might add to their anxiety. But show them you’re human too and it’s natural to not just experience worries but it helps to talk about them. This can empower your child to feel more comfortable and confident in discussing their feelings. It’s not just valuable as a way for you to monitor their mental and emotional state. It also gives them another tool to manage their emotions and symptoms through sharing the load.

Conclusion

Childhood anxiety is a serious challenge, but spending quality time with your children is a valuable tool to manage it. Reading with your children can reduce their stress and provide a little escapism. Performing creative activities can help direct the energy of their symptoms. It’s also important to be aware of how regular communication can help them feel more comfortable in opening up about their feelings. It may be the case that anxiety will be a feature throughout your child’s life. But the quality time you spend with them now can help them for years to come.


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