By Judith E Pentz, MD

Healing Through Wholeness

Integrative Mental Health Options for Children With Anxiety

The world we live in has become more anxiety-inducing for all of us, especially children.

A recent study found that 7.1% of American children aged 3-17 years have been diagnosed with anxiety disorders, and often, anxiety co-occurs with depression and other mood and impulse control disorders.

Supporting a child's well-being requires creating a sense of safety as the first step toward reducing her anxiety. Reassurance from a caregiver is important. And the caregiver needs to be aware of his/her own fears, as children easily pick up on an adult's anxieties.

It is so important to create a safe physical space for the child in the home. This can be the "chill out" room, where the child has time to collect her thoughts, draw or be with a favorite stuffed animal. It can also be helpful to have a designated area for expressing anxiety through movement.

Here are some integrative mental health options to help calm your child.

  • Herbal teas may be offered any time of the day and added to your child's water. Lemon balm and chamomile tea help reduce anxiety. Chamomile also calms an upset stomach, and lavender tea aids in calming the nervous system. Teas often have hops and passionflower, which further add to the calming effect.
  • Both lemon balm and lavender in oil form can be diffused into the air as another way to create a calming atmosphere. Be careful not to apply it directly on the skin, as the concentrated oil may cause irritation. Adding it to a carrier oil reduces that risk.
  • Magnesium citrate or magnesium glycinate tablets (or powder) are effective for reducing anxiety. A child could take 200 or 400 mg tablet once or twice a day. There is also a cream form available to if there are issues with tolerating the tablets. The calming benefits are often immediate.
  • Reduce or eliminate screen time. You might also consider monitoring the level of aggression in the gaming or You Tube videos being watched.
  • Increase outdoor physical activity in green surroundings.
  • Theanine is an amino acid found in green tea. It can quell anticipatory and general anxiety. Children can take it in capsule or tablet form up to three times a day as needed.
  • Offer physical affection to your child. A hug will do wonders.
  • Play soothing and calming music.
  • Reduce the ambient noise in the child's environment. Consider ear plugs or noise-cancelling headphones.
  • Try listening to your child without interrupting them, as this allows them express themselves. In the process, the sources of the their anxiety may emerge.
  • A mind-body healing art can be an empowering for your child. Tai chi, yoga or tai kwan do all help to provide mental, emotional and physical discipline to deal with daily stressors. This builds greater resilience, which helps in weathering ongoing challenges.
  • Review your child's dietary intake. Limiting junk and fast food supports overall mental health. Consider adding organic fruits and vegetables gently cooked in healthy oils. Look for organic produce to limit pesticide exposure. It's a good idea to eliminate caffeine in its various forms.

Taking an integrated approach to health gives you, the parent, creative options for supporting your child's well-being. Better still, some of these suggestions could be effective in reducing your own stress level!

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