The Calming Power of Routine, Structure, and Slowing for Kids and Teens with Anxiety

Photo of young boy wearing a white shirt with black pants and a red tie with his fingers in his ear standing in front of a yellow backdrop. His parents are standing on either side of him facing him and shouting into a bullhorn. Photo could represent the distress this young boy feels and the need for online therapy for kids in Illinois and Florida.

In today’s fast-paced world, where everything seems to move at the speed of light, it’s become increasingly important to create a sense of calm for our kids and teens.

The prevalence of anxiety in children and teens in the US has been on the rise in recent years. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), anxiety disorders now affect 1 in 8 children in the US.

Thankfully, routine, structure, and slowing can be incredible tools in helping our kids and teens not only manage their anxiety but navigate through life’s other challenges as well.

Understanding Anxiety in Kids and Teens

Let’s start by taking a deeper dive into the definition of anxiety. Anxiety is a natural response to stress, characterized by feelings of unease, worry, and fear. It’s a normal part of life and can be beneficial in certain situations such as helping individuals to stay alert and focused.

However, when anxiety becomes excessive, persistent, and interferes with daily life, it may be considered an anxiety disorder.

Anxiety can manifest in various forms. Let’s look at the three most common types.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

This type of anxiety involves excessive worry and fear about a wide range of everyday situations and activities. Children and teens with GAD often struggle with control over their worries and may have physical symptoms such as headaches, stomachaches, or muscle tension.

Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)

Social anxiety involves an intense fear and avoidance of social situations or performance situations due to a fear of embarrassment or scrutiny by others. Kids and teens with SAD often fear being judged or humiliated, leading to difficulties in making friends, speaking in public, or participating in group activities.

Separation Anxiety Disorder (SAD)

Separation anxiety is characterized by excessive fear or distress when a child or teen is separated from their attachment figures or from their home environment. This typically manifests as difficulty separating from parents or caregivers, reluctance to attend school, nightmares about separation, or physical symptoms when separated.

Anxiety can present itself in different ways in kids and teens, often resembling physical, emotional, and behavioral symptoms. Common ones include:

Physical symptoms

Children and teenagers with anxiety may experience physical symptoms such as headaches, stomachaches, muscle tension, restlessness, fatigue, difficulty sleeping, and changes in appetite.

Emotional symptoms

Anxiety can cause kids and teens to feel irritation, frustration, overwhelming worry, fearfulness, excessive guilt, sadness, and a sense of impending doom. They may also have difficulty concentrating or have a strong fear of making mistakes.

Behavioral symptoms

Kids and teens with anxiety may exhibit behavioral changes like avoiding social situations or school, seeking constant reassurance, clinging to parents or caregivers, having difficulty separating from loved ones, experiencing intense separation anxiety, being overly self-conscious, and engaging in repetitive behaviors or rituals.

Cognitive symptoms

Anxiety can also affect a child’s or teen’s thoughts, causing them to have excessive worry and a tendency to expect the worst outcome in various situations. They may have difficulty focusing or concentrating due to racing thoughts and may experience frequent intrusive thoughts or nightmares.

It’s important to note that anxiety symptoms can vary from child to child, and some children may exhibit more specific symptoms based on their age or specific anxiety disorder. It’s important to seek professional help if anxiety symptoms persist and significantly impact your child’s daily functioning and well-being.

Embracing Routine for Kids and Teens with Anxiety

Anxiety tends to thrive in unpredictability and chaos. Therefore, creating a routine and structured environment can work wonders for your child.

Routine provides a solid framework and predictability, which helps reduce anxiety levels for both children and teenagers. Establishing a consistent morning and bedtime routine can be remarkably helpful.

A morning routine can involve waking up at the same time each day, having a nutritious breakfast, and engaging in a calming activity like stretching or mindfulness exercises. On the other hand, a bedtime routine can include winding down with a warm bath, reading a book, or practicing relaxation techniques like deep breathing or visualization.

There are several types of routines that can help guard against anxiety in kids and teens. Here are some of the best ones:

Consistent daily routines

Establishing predictable daily routines provides structure and stability, which can help reduce anxiety. This includes consistent wake-up and bedtime routines, mealtimes, and study/homework schedules.

Photo of Caucasian girl wearing pink pajamas sleeping in a bed with white sheets and her arm wrapped around her white stuffed animal. Photo could represent how this young girl is sleeping much better since receiving online anxiety treatment in Illinois from her online solution focused brief therapist.Sufficient sleep

Adequate sleep is crucial for mental wellbeing. Establish a consistent sleep schedule and ensure kids and teens are getting the recommended amount of sleep per age group.

Healthy diet

A balanced diet can have a positive impact on mental health. Encourage kids and teens to eat nutritious meals and snacks, avoiding excessive sugar and caffeine intake that can contribute to anxiety.

Relaxation techniques

Teach children and teenagers relaxation techniques such as deep breathing exercises, mindfulness, or meditation. These techniques can help them manage their anxiety during stressful situations.

Limit screen time

Excessive screen time, especially engaging with social media, can negatively impact mental health. Set limits on electronic device usage to promote healthier activities and reduce exposure to potentially anxiety-inducing content.

Time management skills

Teach kids and teens effective time management skills, helping them prioritize tasks and avoid becoming overwhelmed. This can help reduce anxiety related to academic or extracurricular pressures.

Hobbies and interests

Encourage kids and teens to engage in activities they enjoy and are passionate about. Hobbies provide a sense of purpose, enjoyment, and can act as a stress reliever, thus reducing anxiety.

Social support

Encourage kids and teens to maintain healthy social connections and friendships. Positive social interactions and a strong support system can alleviate anxiety and provide a sense of belonging.

The Importance of Structure for Kid and Teens with Anxiety

Structure goes hand in hand with routine, bringing order and stability into an anxious child or teen’s life.

There are various types of structures that can help guard against anxiety in kids and teens. Here are some suggestions:

Planning and task management skills

Breaking down tasks into manageable chunks and creating a visual schedule or checklist can provide a sense of direction and accomplishment. By knowing what to expect and having a clear plan, anxious individuals can feel more in control and less overwhelmed.

Structured workspace

Creating a structured and quiet workspace may involve organizing school materials, decluttering your child’s physical space, and setting designated areas for specific activities. It might also involve establishing set times for homework or study sessions which can enhance focus and create a sense of structure that calms anxious minds.

Clear rules and expectations

Setting clear rules and expectations for behavior helps children and teenagers understand boundaries, which can alleviate anxiety. Clearly communicating consequences for breaking the rules can also provide a sense of structure and order.

Open communication and support

Creating an open and supportive environment where children and teenagers feel comfortable expressing their feelings and concerns is essential. Encouraging open dialogue and active listening can help them feel understood and less anxious.

Regular exercise

Engaging in regular physical activity has been shown to reduce anxiety in children and teens. Exercise releases endorphins, which improve mood and decrease stress levels.

Healthy sleep habits

Sufficient and quality sleep is crucial for managing anxiety. Establishing a consistent sleep routine, creating a calm sleeping environment, and limiting exposure to electronic screens before bedtime can promote better sleep patterns.

Positive reinforcement

Recognizing and celebrating their achievements, small or big, can boost their self-esteem and reduce anxiety. Providing positive reinforcement and encouragement fosters a sense of accomplishment and confidence.

Photo of African American girl wearing a light blue t-shirt holding and looking at a science test tube in her left hand and a mug with her right hand. This photo could represent her desire to engage in her favorite hobby again after receiving anxiety treatment for kids in Illinois from her online Christian counselor.Healthy coping mechanisms

Teaching healthy coping mechanisms, such as problem-solving skills and positive self-talk, helps kids and teens effectively manage stress and anxiety. Encouraging them to engage in hobbies or activities they enjoy can also serve as a healthy outlet for stress.

Remember, every child is unique, so it’s essential to consider individual differences and preferences when implementing these structures. It’s also important to maintain an open and supportive relationship with your child when helping them navigate anxiety.

The Power of Slowing Down for Kids and Teens with Anxiety

In a world that values constant hustle and productivity, teaching kids and teens the art of slowing down is a priceless gift. Slowing down allows anxious kids and teens to find moments of stillness, introspection, and self-care.

Encouraging activities like meditation, journaling, or spending time in nature can help them reconnect with themselves and alleviate anxiety.

Teaching mindfulness techniques can be particularly beneficial. Mindfulness involves paying attention to the present moment without judgment. It helps individuals become aware of their thoughts and emotions, allowing them to respond to them in a more deliberate and calm manner.

Practicing mindfulness exercises like focused breathing or body scans helps anxious kids ground themselves, reduce racing thoughts, and regain control over their emotions.

Here are some additional suggestions for teaching your child how to slow down:

Practice deep breathing

Encourage them to take slow, deep breaths in through their nose and out through their mouth. Deep breathing can help activate the body’s relaxation response and reduce anxiety symptoms. Guided meditation or relaxation apps/audios designed for kids and teens can also be helpful.

Create a calm environment

Designate a quiet and comfortable space for them to relax. Encourage activities like reading, drawing, listening to calm music, or engaging in hobbies.

Teach problem-solving and coping skills

Help them develop problem-solving techniques to address their anxieties and challenges. Teach them positive coping strategies, such as writing in a journal, talking to a trusted adult, or engaging in activities that they enjoy.

Limit exposure to triggers

Identify specific triggers that contribute to their anxiety and help them limit their exposure. This could involve reducing screen time, avoiding certain social situations, or finding strategies to manage specific fears.

Encourage open communication

Create a safe and supportive environment where they feel comfortable expressing their anxieties and concerns. Encourage them to share their feelings with trusted friends and adults.

Seek professional support

If anxiety significantly affects their daily life, it may be helpful to involve a mental health professional. They can provide guidance, support, and specialized techniques to help manage anxiety more effectively.

Remember, every child is unique, and it’s important to find strategies that work best for them. Encourage them to try different techniques and adjust as necessary to find what helps them slow down and manage their anxiety effectively.

In conclusion, anxiety doesn’t have to control your child’s life. With the right approach and support, you can empower them to manage their anxiety and thrive.

Let’s prioritize routine, structure, and slowing down to create a nurturing space that allows kids and teens to grow, learn, and live their lives to the fullest. Together, we can help them find peace in a chaotic world.

Begin Online Therapy for Kids and Teens with Anxiety in Illinois and now Florida.

Photo of Caucasian girl with pig tails and wearing a yellow shirt smiling and resting her head in her hands while sitting at a table with the laptop open before her. Photo could represent an online counseling session with her anxiety therapist for kids and teens in Illinois.If your child or teen is struggling with anxiety, including panic attacks, there is hope! Anxiety is highly treatable and online anxiety treatment at Briefly Counseling can help.

Using Solution-Focused Brief Therapy, I help kids and teens reduce their anxiety and build resilience so they can become a happier, more confident version of themselves.

And kids love being able to receive counseling from the comfort and privacy of their own home. Studies have consistently proven that online therapy delivers equal results to in-office counseling.

As an experienced and caring therapist, I love providing counseling for anxiety. To start your child’s counseling journey, call me at 224-236-2296 or email to schedule a FREE 20-minute consultation.

Helena Madsen, MA, LCPC is the founder of Briefly Counseling. I specialize in providing online short-term anxiety treatment for kids and teens ages 7 – 18 as well as Christian counseling.

Whether you’re on the North Shore, in Naperville, Chicago, Champaign, Barrington, Libertyville, Glenview, or downstate Illinois, I can help.

And effective 2024, I am now licensed in Florida! For parents in Jacksonville, Pensacola, Destin, Crestview, Coral Gables, Weston, Parkland, Naples, Marco Island, and Pinecrest, I have immediate openings.

Schedule your appointment or consultation today. I look forward to working with your child to quickly and effectively help them in activating their strengths, resources, and resilience, in order to live with confidence and hope.