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Your secret weapon in managing child anxiety – get your child moving!

Parenting

Anxiety

Resilience

By Michael Hawton

6th July, 2022

Anxiety and worries are normal for every child. However, when those worries become persistent or inhibit what you would normally do as a family, that’s when anxiety can become a problem. So, it is important to have a toolkit of strategies to use as early intervention tools before normal childhood worries become a bigger issue. When helping your child to manage their anxiety, there is one tool that should not be overlooked. That is exercise.

Exercise provides a rare ‘third space’ moment for our busy brains to pause, to breathe. It turns on our brain’s default mode network, a part of the brain that operates in these rare moments of repose and which allows us to process complex thoughts and feelings. Exercise and time in nature stimulate this part of the brain and allows your child to problem solve on their own.

If your child is experiencing persistent anxiety, one simple thing that parents can do is to get them moving.

Here are some of my tips for getting them moving:

Walk and talk about it

Take your child for a walk, and let them have a chance to air their concerns and anxieties. Walking and talking is a good way for the child to feel emotionally supported, and to literally ‘shake off’ some of their anxieties. This will also boost your child’s endorphins and alleviate immediate stressors. An added benefit is that you will feel the same results – it’s a win, win!!

Encourage kids to play sport

Playing a sport, whether it’s soccer, tennis, netball, ballroom dancing, or mountain biking, will give your child a chance to switch on their default mode network, gives them essential life skills such as teamwork, improves concentration and encourages good sleep habits. It will also help kids to produce happy endorphins, to challenge themselves to have a go, build your child’s self-confidence and to make friends.

Build in a routine around exercise

Make time for exercise in your family’s routine. Use it as an opportunity for you and your children to relax and recuperate after difficult times. Exercise can help us to feel renewed and invigorated. Building it into your routine is an effective way to make sure that it’s incorporated into your life on a regular basis.

Make it fun

Bring the joy back into exercise! Remind your kids, and yourself, that movement can be fun. Try spending the afternoon playing some beach or park games, find your local indoor climbing centre, and create a day to challenge yourself and the kids. Exercise doesn’t have to be serious, and when it is done together as a family it can be fun, and give you a few giggles along the way.

Want to learn more skills - join us on an upcoming parent webinar:

Parentshop is hosting a parent-led child development interactive webinar - No Scaredy Cats, for parents to learn the skills to identify and reduce anxiety and build resilience in children aged 2-12. This interactive webinar will be held over three, two-hour-long sessions over three consecutive Wednesday evenings 31st August, 7th & 14th September from 6.30pm- 8.45pm AEDT for only $59.

No Scaredy Cats - for children aged 2-12 years-old: CLICK HERE.

Have a teen showing since of anxious behaviour? Parentshop is hosting a parent-led teen development interactive webinar for parents of teenagers to learn the skills to identify and reduce anxiety and build resilience in their teen - Resilience In Our Teens. This webinar hosted by psychologist Ruby Otero and will be held over three consecutive Monday evenings, 25th July, 1st & 8th August from 6.30pm- 8.45pm AEDT for only $99.

Resilience In Our Teens - for teens aged 13-18 years old: CLICK HERE.

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About the author

Michael Hawton is the founder of Parentshop, providing education and resources for parents and industry professionals working with children. He has authored two books on child behaviour management: Talk Less Listen More and Engaging Adolescents.

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