Five ways to calm an anxious child

It's hard not to panic when your child is anxious but try these tips to calm them, and you

Strategic Psychotherapist and Clinical Hypnotherapist / July 16 2018


Give your anxious child the skills they need to calm themselves down. My favourite breathing technique is the five-finger breathe. Guide your child to use their pointer finger on one hand to outline the out-stretched palm of the other hand. Breathe in when tracing each finger up and breathe out when tracing down.

Your child can practice this when they are calm so they can use it when they feel overwhelmed or anxious.

The breath calms the body, relaxes the flight-or-fight response that’s causing the anxious moment and gives your child the brain space it needs to calm down.


Give your child a hug or a rub on the arm for longer than 10 seconds. This releases oxytocin in you and your distressed child. Oxytocin is a powerful happiness hormone. You should role model this when you are upset or hurt allowing your child to learn a healthy way to cope with anxieties.

Answer the Question

Anxiety has a future orientation so we ask ourselves, 'What if...happens'. It's ok to ask that question, but the anxiety arises when we don’t answer it and we are stuck ruminating with worry. So answer the question if your child asks you. You can say if this happens we could do this or that.

Make mistakes

When you make mistakes, tell your child. Find the humour in the error. Teach them how mistakes aren’t a bad thing and they are an opportunity to learn. Teach them to try and give things a go, you want to reward the effort not the outcome.

Focus on the Positive

All of my students have a Gratitude Journal; they note down each day all the great things that have happened. Anxious children will often dismiss the positive and focus on the negative. Highlight the silver lining. This will help grow strong neural pathways to happiness and weakening the anxious connections.