Apple Montessori Blog
Strategies to recognize and cope with your child’s anxiety
What every parent can do to help their child manage stress
The last several years have been disruptive and challenging times for families during the pandemic with lockdowns, remote working, limited social interactions, and homeschooling. As a result, anxiety and stress have increased for both parents and children in trying to navigate the disruptions and uncertainties of COVID-19 and other current world events.
According to a recent pandemic study published in JAMA Pediatrics, depression and anxiety have doubled since COVID-19, with one in five children experiencing some form of anxiety. Symptoms of anxiety may include sadness, irritability, anger, excessive movement or nervousness, eating disorders, and social withdrawal.
Acknowledging and recognizing anxiety
Feeling anxious is a natural part of human development and experience. Everyone goes through periods of anxiety, young and old. Most children show signs of anxiety at some point in their development and education as they face new experiences while gaining a sense of control of themselves and their environment.
Anxiety can arise in a variety of situations: dealing with uncertainties of the future and changes in routine, especially during COVID-19; separating from their parents on the first day of school; meeting and interacting socially with new people; taking a test, preparing for a performance or sports event; and learning something new or tackling a challenging project.
The key is to detect, identify, and respond to the cause of anxiety quickly and appropriately to protect your child from long-term stress or mental health disorders. Always consult your pediatrician with any concerns about behavioral, emotional, or physical changes in your children.
Coping with your child’s anxiety
First and foremost, it is important to recognize and address your child’s anxiety in an open, positive, and constructive way to help them understand that feeling anxious is a natural part of growing up. We all need to face our worries and fears head-on to minimize anxiety and self-regulate to regain calmness and control of situations.
The Positive Parenting series offers sound advice for addressing and coping with anxiety in children:
- Observe your child’s actions and actively listen to your child’s feelings and reasons for being anxious. Remember, any change or challenge in routine or environment can trigger anxiety for your child ― understand why your child feels upset or anxious.
- Help your child relax. Simultaneously, calm your child when they are emotionally distressed, anxious, impatient, angry, confused, sad, tearful, or frustrated. First and foremost, with gentle voice and touch, soothe your child by encouraging deep breathing and relaxation to help them self-regulate.
Sesame Street’s “Cookie Monster” demonstrates self-regulation in this thoughtful video: https://www.npr.org/2019/10/23/772789491/how-to-help-a-child-struggling-with-anxiety
- Understand and address the cause of anxiety ― Once the trigger of anxiety or stress is identified, you can explore ways to mitigate the anxiety or fears of what may happen in constructive conversations: “What are you most concerned about? What is the worst thing that could happen? What is the best thing that could happen?”
- Develop an action plan for addressing nervousness, stress, and anxiety in your child:
- Start with you ― modeling appropriate behavior. First, you need to remain calm and avoid exacerbating the situation with additional anxiety brought on by your desire to protect your child. By staying calm, cool, and collected, you can help your child in managing and mitigating their anxiety.
- Establish a regular communications routine in a welcoming, calm and safe place to have conversations with your child to catch up on the day, help understand their feelings, and process any anxieties or worries they may have. With love, kindness, and patience, let them know you are there for them unconditionally to listen, work through any problem, and help overcome their concerns. Remember, the anxiety and emotional distress your child feels is very real to them.
- Offer problem-solving opportunities to address your child’s anxiety by sharing experiences of when you felt anxious and how those anxious feelings or situations resulted in a positive outcome or humorous A little levity can go a long way in lightening or diffusing an anxious circumstance. Help your child understand what they can control and what they cannot control. The best they can do is control how they react to and manage any anxiety or worry that arises. That’s a life lesson we’re all reminded of periodically during uncertain times.
3. Exercise a healthy lifestyle and mindset. We all grow from facing fears and worry. The more success your child has in overcoming anxieties, the stronger and more resilient they become in facing emotional challenges in the future. Part of building resiliency to anxiety and stress includes a healthy, balanced lifestyle with good nutrition, plenty of sleep and indoor/outdoor exercise, quality time to connect with friends and family, and creative, stimulating activities to spark their imagination, build skills, and develop a sense of purpose and accomplishment.
The Montessori approach to reducing anxiety in children
The Apple Montessori Schools’ approach to child development and education helps minimize anxiety for children by:
- Creating a warm, welcoming environment where children are treated with respect, courtesy, and kindness for others and themselves.
- Providing children with appropriate, purposeful educational and life-skill activities in a multi-age classroom guided by teachers who help children learn at their own pace and from one another.
- Developing the “whole child” ― academically, socially, and emotionally for student success and a lifelong love of learning so they can be happy, productive, and supportive members of their families and communities.
At Apple Montessori Schools, we understand that developing the social and emotional well-being of children is just as important as intellectual and academic development. Discover how we support our students and families by scheduling a tour today.
“The absorption of the environment is an intellectual activity. It is a psychic necessity that the child explores the environment; it satisfies his spirit. After he has had the satisfaction of observing one thing that interests him, he goes on until he is attracted by something else. In this way, the child can walk for miles. ”
– Dr. Maria Montessori