Anxiety is a part of life,and it doesn't ask for your birth certificate. People of all ages -- including children -- get nervous. In children, anxiety may manifest as stomach aches or headaches. You child may become clingy when he is nervous or become belligerent to get out of a task that makes him nervous. If your child persistently suffers from medical maladies, nightmares, teeth grinding or bed wetting, have him evaluated by a health care provider.
Art therapists regularly use drawing to help children illustrate their fears. If your child is nervous about something, have her draw a picture of what her nervousness looks like on one side of a piece of paper. Encourage her to use as many colors as she needs and not to worry about neatness or her drawing technique. Once that picture is completed, have her flip the page over and draw a picture of herself in a safe place or a picture of her conquering the concerns. Discuss the pictures with your child to show her that she does have some control over her nerves, and the simple act of drawing the picture will help her to feel more in control of the situation.
The balloon game will teach children deep breathing techniques that can help quell nervousness. Have your child imagine that his lungs are balloons, and he can slowly try to fill them up with air when he's nervous. Then, once they are full, he can try to deflate them slowly. This teaches breath control since most children's breathing becomes quick and shallow when they are nervous.
My Calm Place
Have your child use his imagination to stop his nervousness. When your child is calm and relaxed, help him visualize a favorite place and describe it to you in detail. You can play along by coming up with your favorite place, too. Once the place is defined, have your child talk about the fun things he can do there and why he feels safe there. Then come up with a word that describes the place, such as "garden," "jungle" or "beach." When your child is experiencing a bout of anxiety, remind him to think of the "beach," and that can help him calm down.
Act it Out
Playing with puppets can be particularly useful in helping young children articulate their problems and role playing helps older children try out different scenarios to pinpoint problems and find solutions. Allow your child to take the lead, but give her a scenario similar to one she may be nervous about. Listen to what the puppets have to say. Use that information to help your child overcome her nerves. If your child is nervous about going on a field trip, have the puppets take a field trip and devise strategies to help them as they come up against challenges. If your older child is nervous about speaking in front of her teacher or class, have her act it out with you to feel a little more comfortable.