Stressful situations are all around us and as anxiety and depression rates increase among adolescents and toddlers, parents are looking for ways to help and support their child. Many children have fears and worries, and may feel sad and hopeless from time to time. Strong fears may appear at different times during development. For example, toddlers are often very distressed about being away from their parents, even if they're safe and cared for. Although fears and worries are typical in children, persistent or extreme forms of fear and sadness could be due to anxiety or depression.
In addition to the primary symptoms of excessive fear and worry, other common emotional symptoms of anxiety include:
- Feelings of apprehension or dread
- Trouble concentrating
- Feeling tense and jumpy
- Anticipating the worst
- Watching for signs of danger
RELATED: The Physical Side of Anxiety
Meditation and mindfulness are wonderful tools to help children cope with anxiety and depression. One mindfulness exercise is belly breathing. Place your hands on your stomach and take deep, slow breaths in and then out to expand the stomach and hands outwards. The focus become on the breath and instead of all the worries that can weigh an adult, or child, down. Belly breathing forces you to be present. Practicing it two or three times, several times a day, if kids are anxious at school, getting ready for a test, or if they're having a stressful experience, can help them work through their emotions.
Here are some recommendations for how long to have practice belly breathing:
- Preschool age: A few minutes per day
- Grade school age: 3 to 10 minutes twice per day
- Teens: 5 to 45 minutes per day