Anxiety is increasingly common among children and teens today. While some anxiety is normal, excessive or persistent anxiety can negatively impact your child’s health, relationships, and performance at school. As a parent, you want to help your child manage anxiety in a healthy way without immediately turning to medication. Here are some effective and natural strategies you can use at home to help treat your child’s anxiety:
Limit Caffeine and Sugar
Caffeine and sugar can exacerbate anxiety symptoms. Limit foods and drinks with caffeine like coffee, tea, soda, chocolate, and energy drinks. Reduce sugary snacks and desserts and choose whole, unprocessed foods instead. Staying hydrated with water and getting nutrients from fruits, vegetables, and proteins can help balance your child’s energy levels and moods.
Increase Exercise and Outdoor Time
Regular exercise is a natural anxiety reliever. Aim for 30-60 minutes of exercise per day, whether it’s team sports, running around outside, or doing yoga. Spending time outdoors in nature has also been shown to reduce anxiety and boost mood. Try to limit screen time and get outside for fresh air and vitamin D as much as possible.
Teach Deep Breathing and Mindfulness
When kids feel anxiety building, deep breathing can activate the body’s relaxation response. Have your child practice deep, belly breathing: breathe in through the nose and feel the belly expand, then slowly exhale through the mouth. Combining deep breathing with simple mindfulness activities like noticing feelings, scents, and sounds in the present moment can also calm the nervous system.
Use Essential Oils
Certain essential oils like lavender, clary sage, and bergamot may help relieve anxiety when inhaled or used topically. Add a few drops of calming essential oils to an epsom salt bath, diffuse oils at home, or dilute and apply to the wrists or temples. Just be sure to research safety and only use kid-safe oil blends.
Try Herbal Teas and Supplements
Herbal teas featuring chamomile, valerian, passionflower, or magnesium-rich oat straw may ease anxiety. Always consult your pediatrician first before giving any new supplement. Some research also shows benefits from supplements like magnesium, ashwagandha, omega-3 fatty acids, and lemon balm. However, the science is still limited for many herbal remedies so professional guidance is important.
Practice Relaxation Techniques
Set aside time each day to practice relaxation techniques together. Try simple meditation apps, quiet reading time, gentle stretches or yoga, listening to soothing music, or creative outlets like coloring, playing with clay, or drawing. Having a “relaxation toolbox” with different options kids can explore helps them find methods that work best for their anxiety.
Maintain a Regular Routine
Sticking to regular daily routines can minimize anxiety triggers. Try to ensure your child gets enough sleep by setting an appropriate bedtime and limiting evening screen use. Build in downtime after school before tackling homework. Setting alarms and posting reminders for daily activities like chores can also help reduce chaos that exacerbates anxiety.
Avoid Catastrophic Thinking
Anxious kids often jump to worst case scenarios. Counteract this tendency by discussing anxious thoughts calmly and realistically. Ask your child, “How likely is it that will actually happen?” and talk through more probable outcomes. Focus on the facts rather than reinforcing unrealistic fears.
Let Your Child Face Worries
It’s natural to want to protect kids from anxiety-provoking situations, but avoiding triggers usually makes anxiety worse long-term. Expose your child gradually to manageable levels of stress or worry with your support. Whether it’s speaking to classmates or sleeping away from home, facing small challenges builds coping skills and resilience.
Maintain Open Communication
Talk to your child about their anxiety symptoms and discuss constructive ways to manage fears. However, don’t repeatedly ask if something is making them anxious or excessively comfort them when worried. This can reinforce the anxiety habit. Keep communication casual and positive. Making time to listen without judgment is the best way to support an anxious child.
While medication can sometimes be helpful, treating your child’s anxiety should start with natural lifestyle adjustments and practices at home. Exercise, nutrition, nature exposure, relaxing activities, open discussion – these therapeutic strategies provide anxiety relief without side effects. By empowering your child with coping skills now, you can help them manage anxiety successfully and confidently into adulthood.