3 Anxiety-Busting Skills for Kids & Parents

3 Anxiety-Busting Skills for Kids & Parents Image Children and adolescents across the US are struggling with anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders at alarming rates. One study in JAMA found that anxiety diagnoses increased by 29% between 2016-2020, and the pandemic has only worsened the situation. As a result, the demand for mental health services has skyrocketed while the number of professionals has not.

As a parent, you may feel lonely or frustrated, wondering how to help your child when it may take months to start services with a mental health professional. Read on to discover how to approach conversations with your child about anxiety. Then you will learn two simple anxiety-busting skills that you or your child can do anywhere, anytime.

How Common are Anxiety Disorders?

In the United States, pre-pandemic data from the CDC showed that 9.4% of US children had been formally diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. However, that number is underreported, as many children and families lack access to adequate mental health services.

Anxiety is a normal human feeling that occurs when you are unsure about something. For example, anxiety over a test you didn't study for is normal, but most kids can go to school and take the test. Anxiety becomes a problem when it starts to interfere with daily life.

What are the Signs of Anxiety?

Everyone has felt anxiety at some point - again, that test you didn't study for, an interview, a big project, etc. For children and teenagers, Some symptoms that anxiety is becoming problematic may include:

  • Worry that seems 'out of proportion' for the situation
  • Avoiding or trying to avoid social situations, such as school or other activities with lots of people
  • Physical symptoms such as heart pounding, sudden trouble breathing, feeling shaky/sweaty
  • Trouble Sleeping
  • Irritable or quick to anger
  • Stomach problems

This list is not complete. It may be time to explore professional help if your child's symptoms interfere with school, extracurricular activities, or other areas of life. Demand for therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists is at an all-time high, and it can take several months to secure a new patient appointment.

Keep reading to discover three ways to help your child relieve anxiety today.

1. Listen

Listen to your child. Ask them what is on their mind, how they feel, and what worries they have. A few conversation starters could include:

  • It seems like you're having trouble with _____. Can you tell me more about what is going on?
  • Can you tell me how you feel when...
  • How are you feeling about the math test/big game/upcoming concert/etc.?
Power of Silence

It is difficult to talk about our emotions. Don't underestimate the power of silence when you ask a tough question. While your child collects their thoughts, stick with the silence. Stay off your phone, resist the urge to talk or turn on music, and just be with your child. They'll talk when they are ready.

Simple & Clear Communication

When your child is anxious, simple words and actions are the best way to communicate. Tell them you are there to help them work through the feelings.

"I am here for you to help make it through," is a simple, clear statement that acknowledges their struggle without reinforcement.

2. Breathing Exercises

Breathing exercises are proven to engage your breath, mind, and body. Our brains really stink at multitasking. When you focus on breath and how it flows through your body, anxious thoughts melt away.

Box Breathing

Box breathing, or square breathing, is one of the simplest breathing exercises. Count to 4 as you 'draw' each side of a square with your finger, then repeat as many times as necessary to feel anxiety relief.

  • First: Inhale
  • Second: Hold your breath
  • Third: Exhale
  • Fourth: Hold your breath

You can do box breathing anywhere, any time. Count out loud or in your head. Draw in the air, in your mind, or on paper. However you do it, repetition is key to helping your mind focus.

For Take 2 Minutes subscribers, several guided breathing exercises are available at your fingertips when you text 'Send me a Breathing Exercise.' If you are not a subscriber yet, Take 2 Minutes has many resources to help increase positivity. Check out the service and resources.

3. Affirmations

Affirmations are positive statements that can reframe worrisome thoughts. Personalize the affirmation to whatever issue your child is having. The affirmation can be very specific or generalized and can change over time. Two simple ideas include:

  • I am Safe, I am Loved, I am Healthy
  • I am strong, I can work through this

Positive affirmations give your child strength over their anxiety and let them control the narrative. Encourage them to say the affirmation any time a worrisome, anxious thought starts to creep in.


As more and more children show signs of problematic anxiety, parents need skills to help their children manage worrisome thoughts, behaviors, and emotions that interfere with daily living. Simple exercises can help your child learn to manage their anxiety. Remember:

  • Be Present
  • Listen more than you speak
  • There is power in silence
  • Simple & Clear Communication
  • Use your Skills (Box Breathing, Affirmations)

Above all, remember you are not alone. Help is available; you just have to reach out.


JAMA Article: Five-Year Trends in US Children's Health and Well-being, 2016-2020

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