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Behavior Makeover: Anxiety

Four Steps To Reduce Anxiety
Use the following as a guide to minimizing your kid's anxiety.

Step 1. Identify Potential Anxiety Triggers
The first step to eliminating anxiety in your child is to see what is causing the pressure. Begin by listening to your kid's concerns and complaints. Don't minimize or dismiss any of her worries. Instead, listen quietly. Then spend a week evaluating your child's daily schedule of school, home, and extracurricular activities (sports, dance, church group, music). How much free time does your child have left?

Step 2. Eliminate Those Stressors That You Can
Cutting out just one thing in your child's weekly activity may make a tremendous difference in reducing her stress and anxiety. It could be an activity that you want but may not be a top priority for her.

Step 3. Deal with Stressors You Can't Eliminate
Some stressors are beyond your control. For example, even if you turn off the TV, you child will still hear about devastating world events. But you can help your kid cope with the realities of life by reassuring him that you and the other people in his life are doing their best to keep him safe.

Step 4. Teach Healthy Ways to Deal with Inevitable Anxiety
Anxiety is an inevitable part of life for us all, and kids can learn to use some of the techniques that we adults use to cope with pressure. Here are four anxiety-reducing techniques:

  • Self-talk. Teach your child to say a statement inside her head to help her stay calm and handle the stress. Here are a few: "Chill out, calm down." "I can do this." "Stay calm and breathe slowly." "It's nothing I can't handle."

  • Elevator breathing. This one works if your kid has ever ridden in an elevator. Tell him to close his eyes, slowly breath out three times, and then imagine he's in an elevator on the top of a very tall building. He presses the button for the first floor and watches the buttons for each level slowly light up as the elevator goes down. As the elevator descends, his stress fades away.

  • Stress melting. Ask your kid to find the spot in his body where he feels the most tension – perhaps his neck, shoulder muscles, or jaw. He then closes his eyes, concentrates on the spot, tensing it up for three or four seconds, and then lets it go. Tell him to imagine the stress slowly melting away as he does so.

  • Visualize a calm place. Ask your kid to think of a place he has been to where he feels peaceful – for instance, the beach, his bed, grandpa's backyard, a tree house. When anxiety kicks in, tell him to close his eyes and imagine that spot, while breathing slowly.


From No More Misbehavin' by Michele Borba, Ed.D. Copyright © 2003 by Michele Borba. All rights reserved. Used by arrangement with John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Buy the book at www.amazon.com.

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