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Inside: If you are wondering what to say to help your anxious child calm down (or angry child), then pull from any one of these 17 powerful phrases to calm an anxious child. We will also discuss what NOT to say to an anxious or angry child.
If your child suffers from anxiety, then you know how downright gut-wrenching it is to be unsure how to help them feel better.
It seems you can never find the right thing to say.
We often say things like, “It’s okay. You don’t need to worry about this,” or, “You’re fine,” or “It’s no big deal.”
Do you know this can often make anxiety worse?
These words of encouragement are often well-intended, but the problem is that they don’t work, and they aren’t validating the child’s fears or worries.
Even though you might not think your kiddo’s worries are a big deal, for the child, it is a BIG deal, and you haven’t given them any information or strategies to actually solve the problem and begin the process of feeling better.
Did you know?
Anxiety is the most common mental health concern for kids and adults?[
Instead of saying the wrong things that are actually making your child’s anxiety worse, start saying the right things with these 17 phrases that will help your anxious child calm down.
Signs Your Child is Suffering from Anxiety
Anxiety isn’t always straightforward. If you are looking for your child to just confess, “Hey, I have anxiety; I’m really struggling here.” Well, think again.
Anxiety will manifest in different behaviors.
Below are a few examples of how anxiety might present in your child:
- Anger or agitation (behavioral issues)
- Negative thinking
- Sleep issues
- Controlling behavior
- Avoiding activities
- Rude and/or defiant behavior
Anxiety often presents as anger, and this is because your child feels out of control. If you suspect this is happening in your household, please check out this ultimate guide to anger management in kids. It has a whopping 55 quick calm-down strategies for you to use.
Phrases an Anxious Child Might Say
If your child is suffering from anxiety, there will be common phrases you might hear, such as:
- I don’t want to go
- No one likes me
- I don’t want to go to school
- I can’t do it
- What if you die
- I feel sick. My stomach is upset
- But what if…what if…what if…
- I want to stay with you
Have you heard any of these phrases before?
I know, right? Me too! I’ve heard all of them.
We need to change the narrative running through our child’s head. These phrases are unhelpful, counterproductive, and just plain negative.
And here’s the kicker:
These negative and anxious thoughts can actually start to manifest into real physical symptoms, like headaches, stomachaches, dizziness, panic attacks, etc.
That’s why it’s so important to develop coping strategies and do everything we can to help our kids navigate these overwhelming emotions.
Phrases You Shouldn’t Say to an Anxious Child
Before we look at all the awesome and supportive things we can say to our anxious kiddo, let’s quickly go over a few of the common things we might say and explain quickly why saying these things doesn’t help.
- Don’t worry
- This is all in your head
- Why is this upsetting you so much? It’s no big deal
- Calm down
- It’s going to be ok
- There’s nothing to be afraid of
- What’s wrong with you?
- You better snap out of it, or else
- You’re just a worrywart
- You have no reason to be worried
- This is so silly, don’t worry about this
- You’re fine
- Don’t cry
And while it’s not our intention to harm our child with these phrases (we actually want to help), these phrases are all so unhelpful.
Saying “calm down” has actually never likely made anyone feel calm – ever! It typically has the reverse effect.
If you perceived something as a legitimate threat, would any of the above statements make you feel better?
Now just imagine:
You are a young child, and you don’t understand your confusing feelings. They feel big, and you are overwhelmed with fear, and no one seems to understand. You look around and wish you could be as carefree as your classmates and siblings, and you wonder what’s wrong with you. Your parents just say, “Calm down,” and instead of feeling better, you just feel naughty and lonely.
We aren’t teaching our kids life-long coping skills. We need to help them manage their anxiety and anger so that they can thrive as an adult because anxiety isn’t going anywhere. It doesn’t disappear, but we can learn to cope.
So now that we’ve talked about a few things you shouldn’t say to an anxious child, what should you say?
Well, below are 17 super helpful phrases to calm an anxious child.
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17 Phrases to Calm an Anxious Child
1. Beat it, Mr. Worry Bully
One of the best anxiety-squashing techniques we have used is to name our worry, draw our worry, and then talk to it.
Don’t worry. We won’t check you into the looney bin. This is totally effective.
Giving worry a name allows our children to feel like they have some control. It gives a face and a name to a powerful, invisible force within them.
Whenever my son starts worrying, I’ll often say, is your Anxiety Ninja Bully back? (That’s the name my son gave his worry bully).
Then we get bossy and tell that Anxiety Ninja Bully where to go and to get out of our heads.
This is also a great technique to show your child that their worries are separate from them. They are actually in control, not the worry bully.
In our Anxiety Kit for Kids, we’ve got a worksheet that encourages kids to name and draw their anxiety bullies.
2. This feeling will pass
Like everything else, start teaching your kiddo mindfulness, and within that, they will learn that everything passes, bad feelings (and good feelings too).
“This too shall pass” is one of my absolute favorite phrases to calm an anxious child.
When your kiddo is caught up replaying that movie reel of bad thoughts, they sometimes feel that the movie will never end. Instead of trying to force them to stuff the worry away, remind your kiddo that relief is coming.
Kids can take a deep breath and know that the feeling will pass.
This leads nicely to our next point…breathing is so important…
If your child suffers from anxiety (and it’s said that 20% of kids do), then you’ve just gotta check out our two EPIC guides to conquering anxiety in kids:
3. Let’s take 5 deep breaths together
Perhaps you’ve noticed that when you inhale a big, slow, deep breath, you feel calmer, more relaxed, and less anxious.
Well, our kids need this big breath too.
When we are anxious, we tense up, and less oxygen gets to our brains, which makes it hard to think clearly.
And a breathing break will give back a sense of calmness and control.
Breathing is one of my A+ strategies for helping anxious kids (and anxious adults). See here for 10 of the best breathing exercises for kids.
It can be hard to convince your child to take deep breaths when they are super upset, so instead of trying to force it, you can say, “I’m going to take 5 deep breaths now.” You can count out loud while you inhale and exhale, and this simple shift in energy will calm your child and hopefully encourage them to breathe alongside you.
Calm Breathing is not to avoid anxiety but to help you cope with anxiety and take the edge off.
4. I know this is hard. Tell me how you are feeling
Acknowledge and empathize with your child that what they are feeling is difficult and valid.
One of the best phrases to calm an anxious child is simply to say, “I understand.”
Just being heard and understood can make all the difference in the world.
Have you ever had something bothering you…eating away at you, and then after you talk about it, you feel a sense of relief like a weight has been lifted off of you.
By talking about your child’s feelings and acknowledging that you understand that it is hard and that you are here to help, you are validating your child, and this is a great place to start to find solutions to these difficult feelings.
5. You are in a safe place, you are safe, and you are loved
Being told you are safe by the person you love most is a super powerful phrase.
We need to remember that anxiety manifests as physical symptoms, your body actually wants to run, and it prepares for battle. Your heart pounds, your palms get sweaty, and you feel dizzy and panicked.
And this is scary, especially for a young child who doesn’t understand what’s happening.
Feeling safe can calm the nervous system.
6. Why do you think that?
Here’s an example:
My son often worries that he can’t make friends or that no one likes him.
Instead of telling him, “Oh, don’t be silly, everyone loves you,” which doesn’t validate the root of why he is feeling that way, I can say, “Why do you think no one likes you?”
He will then think about it and say, “Because my best friend plays with Tommy more than me.” Or, “Some kids are making fun of me.”
Now we are talking! And we can now get to the root of the problem, and you can talk about it (and find solutions from there).
7. Tell Me All About it and What Can I Do to Help
Let your child openly talk about their fears instead of trying to repress them. Like you, kids need time to process their feelings and thoughts.
Don’t offer solutions; just listen.
We often schedule worry time.
So I will say, “Let’s calm down, and we will schedule a worry date for tonight after school; we can spend 15 uninterrupted minutes talking about this.”
Carve out time in your schedule to worry. After you talk about your worries, you’ll find it much easier to say goodbye to the worry and move on.
You can also just sit with your child until they calm down, maybe sing or give a hug. You are your child’s safe place. Remember that, and you need to be there for them.
8. How Big is This Worry on a Scale of 1 to 10?
Putting quantifiable numbers to worry can help a child realize their worry isn’t the end of the world.
They can realize that in the big picture, this worry isn’t that big of a deal. Or, maybe it is the biggest worry of all, and you’ll need to employ some calm-down strategies or problem-solving solutions.
9. What do we know about this?
Gather up all the facts you can about the worry.
So, for example, if your child is worried about attending a birthday party, gather up the facts.
We know Simon, your best friend, will be there, so you don’t feel alone
There will be fun games
There will be kids you don’t know but also kids you do know.
Life can seem insurmountable amidst anxious thoughts. Break down the thoughts into manageable parts. This helps your child define the actual anxiety and start to find solutions.
You can also ask, “What does Science say about this?” For instance, if your child is worried about a tornado, research the statistics on tornadoes, like how often a tornado strikes. This might help them find perspective.
10. You are not alone. I feel scared about that too.
Let your child know it’s completely normal to worry. Anxiety can feel lonely. A lot like a lone star high in the sky looking down at a bustling world on a starless night.
No one wants to feel alone and like they are the only ones suffering from these intrusive thoughts. (and thinking something is wrong with them).
Telling your child about your own age-appropriate times of anxiety helps them feel less alone. (and secretly, kids love to hear stories about your childhood).
Try telling them what happened, how it made you feel (physically and mentally), how you got through it, and your super helpful calm-down strategies.
11. Let’s change the ending to that story
Anxiety has a way of making kids feel stuck. Their thoughts might play on repeat like an old broken record of the Beejees.
Help your kiddo find and see different solutions, and retell their internal dialogue with a new ending.
Perhaps they might flunk that test, but they also might ace it and get tons of recognition from the teacher.
Have them also face their fears. What would actually happen if x, y, or z occurred? Discuss what that looks like and how you could handle that. This helps your child develop a plan which will help them cope if something does go wrong.
12. Tell me when two minutes have gone by
This is a genius suggestion from GoZen. Time is a powerful tool when children are anxious. By watching a clock or a watch for movement, a child has a focus point other than what is happening.
Distraction, avert focus onto something else and off of the snowballing thought.
You just gotta get a time-timer. This is the exact timer I have (and use EVERY.SINGLE.DAY).
There are so many uses for this little timer. Show your kids how much time they have left to complete a task (the time left shows in red, and as it counts down, the red area gets smaller and smaller); use it for screen time battles, anxiety management (as we discussed above) and for morning and bedtime routines.
13. Let me Worry About This For You
Can you offer to take on the problem and tell your child you will brainstorm solutions?
Many children experience anxiety around school. I send a kindness rock with my son to school. He keeps it in his pocket. Every time he feels worried, he rubs the rock, and it passes his worries on to me. (If you want to make your own kindness rocks, you can grab our free Kindness printables here)
Our Kindness Rocks Printables will actually get your child excited about kindness. Say what?! It’s super fun, creative, and encourages loads of positivity. Simply click the button below to get your kindness printables delivered straight to your inbox.
It also keeps him connected to me. I honestly thought this was a little far-fetched, but it’s been so effective in helping my son feel connected to me at school. It’s a tradition I hope we can carry on for years to come.
I also put an inspirational lunch box note in my son’s lunch. This is one of my favorite ways to connect with my kiddo when he’s at school. You can grab this printable set of 100 notes right here.
14. This is called anxiety – and we can make it go away
For young kids, they don’t even realize that what they are experiencing is anxiety.
Help them understand some technical information on anxiety. So that when these feelings arise, they can go, ah, there it is, this is the anxiety my mom or dad was talking about.
When kids learn what anxiety is, they can start to use feeling words and pull out their coping strategies.
Our Anxiety Kit for Kids has a ton of worksheets to help your kiddo understand what anxiety is, and start to recognize the symptoms within their bodies.
15. Repeat this, I am brave, and I can do this.
If your child isn’t feeling very confident and is worrying about an upcoming sporting event, test, or social gathering, pump them up. You can use any of these phrases from our list of 101 positive things to say to kids.
If you want a free PDF poster of this printable, grab it right here.
Try instilling a growth mindset into your child. Fill up their bucket with love, confidence, support, and empowerment.
16. Think of something happy
One of the best ways to redirect an anxious mind is to let it settle on a different thought.
Think of something happy, a toy, a person, a place…anything that creates happy feelings instead of negative ones.
Using guided imagery or relaxation can be very helpful in helping an anxious child calm down.
“Imagine a place where you feel totally comfortable and happy, a favorite place you have been, somewhere you have seen, or completely made up.”
17. Let’s look at one thing, hear one thing and think of one thing.
Play a game where you find one thing you hear, then move on to one thing you see, then one thing you smell, then one thing you can touch.
Playing the senses game gets kids out of their heads and into the present moment.
Using Mindfulness to Help Calm an Anxious Child
In addition to these phrases to calm an anxious child, kids can learn mindfulness, and mindfulness will go a long way to helping our children develop life-long coping skills.
We’ve got a ton of resources here for you, including our best-selling mindfulness exercise book Mightly Mindful Kids, our detailed articles on how to teach mindfulness to kids, and why mindfulness is so important for kids.
Anxiety, unfortunately, might be a part of your child’s life, and you can’t make it go away completely; that’s why it’s crucial we teach kids coping strategies.
Books to Help Calm An Anxious ChildCoping Skills for Kids Workbook: Over 75 Coping Strategies to Help Kids Deal with Stress, Anxiety and Anger What to Do When You Worry Too Much: A Kid’s Guide to Overcoming Anxiety (What-to-Do Guides for Kids) Anxiety Relief for Kids: On-the-Spot Strategies to Help Your Child Overcome Worry, Panic, and Avoidance
These phrases can help your anxious child, but if you notice that your child’s anxiety is interrupting their lives, and seem excessive, frequent, and more intense than other kids their age, it’s likely time to seek professional help.
Be patient, learn how you can help, and start to teach anxiety management techniques and coping strategies to your child. The good news is that anxiety is very treatable, and you can help!
Check out these awesome phrases to help calm an anxious child!