Free shipping on all orders over $75🎄

She comes to me with teary eyes, a shaky voice, and stomping feet, “This is dumb! Everything is terrible! I’m never going to school again!”

My 13-year-old daughter is prone to drama. It doesn’t take much for her to fly off the handle these days. One minute she’s happily crafting at the table and the next moment her mood has made such a drastic change I have whiplash from it.

My first response is to say the easiestand least helpfulwords, “Just calm down.” But I know from my own experience that those words have never helped anyone just calm down.

Along with my daughter’s teenage hormones is the underlying anxiety that seems to overshadow every situation. I recognize it because I have experienced it too. 

I have lived with an anxiety disorder for over 30 years. Research has shown that children of a parent with an anxiety disorder have a 33 percent higher chance of having it themselves. This makes me fearful that my children may have to live with it, too. I can despair over the fact that maybe my kids will have to navigate life with the mental health diagnosis, or I can give what I wish I would have received in my teenage years as my own mental illness began to take root.

RELATED: Until I Had An Anxious Child, I Didn’t Understand

It feels tricky navigating these waters from this side of the boat. I have found a way to function, and even sometimes thrive, with my mental illness. But, trying to help someone do the same, especially my own child, feels a bit more cumbersome. We are the same, yet we are different. Trying to communicate that I care without assuming that I understand is a tricky path. But it’s one we can maneuver by leading with compassion.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, maybe not with your own mental health disorder, but maybe one you see in your child, there is hope. We can help our children through anxious thoughts that seem to control their lives when we lead with compassion and not assumption.

Don’t belittle their anxiety. Though whatever they are expressing to you seems like not that big of a deal, do not call it that. To them, it feels huge and hard to even look past. By saying words like, “Just calm down,” “Don’t worry about that,” or “It’s no big deal,” you communicate assumption instead of compassion. It belittles their problem instead of empathizing with it.

When your child starts expressing their anxiety about something, just listen. Fight the urge to fix it. Sometimes anxiety can cause us to be stuck in a loop of negative thought that is all in our head. Giving voice to the worry can help break the loop. Often they just need to land the plane and get their thoughts to stop circling inside their head and have a solid place to set them down. Talking it out loud to someone who will listen and not judge can help.

Get them moving. Fresh air and movement have been clinically proven to help the anxious mind. When you start to notice your child becoming more anxious, offer to go on a bike ride or a walk with them and leave all the screens and devices at home. Take a walk through a park or woods and encourage deep breaths and exploration. When we are anxious, our breathing is shallow without us even realizing it. Focusing on deep breaths that go all the way into our lungs helps get more oxygen into our bodies and communicates to the brain that it’s not in fight or flight mode and that it can slow down and relax. Exploring outside and what is around us in nature helps us see ourselves in the big picture. Marveling at how even the smallest creature can live in this big world can help us see that we have our place here too.

RELATED: Dear Anxious Child, I Will Fight For You

Help them form a power phrase. Anxiety is not easily removed. Sometimes when we have landed the plane on a certain anxious thought, it will take off again when we least expect it, often at night. Help your child come up with a power phrase that they can repeat to themselves when anxious thoughts start to come. Usually, a two-line phrase that is about five or six syllables each is a helpful number. As they repeat this power phrase to themselves, they should focus on breathing deeply in and out. Encourage them to write it down and post it in their room or slip a small note of it into their lunch box. Often we know the truth, but it’s hard to find it when our mind is screaming lies that make us anxious. This power phrase can be a way to remind them of the truth.

Anxiety can overrun our lifeor our children’s livesbut it doesn’t have to. The next time your child comes to you with anxious thoughts, fight the urge to tell them to calm down. Instead, take small, intentional steps in the midst of their anxious moment to help your child feel seen, heard, and understood. 

It’s not a magic formula to make it all go away, but it’s purposeful acts of compassion that can help your child navigate through their thoughts and feelings and make this world a little less anxiety-inducing in the process.

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our new book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available now!

Order Now

Nichole J Suvar

Nichole Suvar is a writer, speaker, and intentional moment seeker. She has found relief from perfectionism and anxiety in the power of small, intentional moments. Nichole is passionate about sharing these moments of everyday life and helping others see how we can use them to glorify God and point others to Him. She desires for women to know that they are created for a purpose and that even the struggle of anxiety can be a tool to help point us to our Savior. Nichole is a contributing writer to the 365 Self Care Guide app, as well as a monthly writer for Kingdom Edge magazine. She is the author of Numbering Our Days: Combating Anxiety in the Power of Small Intentional Moments, as well as a contributing author to Proverbs 31 Ministries and several devotional anthologies and blogs. When she’s not writing she enjoys hikes with her husband, connecting moments with her kids, or curling up with an intriguing mystery novel. You can connect with her, and sign up for free resources for combating anxiety and living a life of purpose, at her website

God Can Mold the Anxious Child Into a Confident Adult

In: Faith, Kids
Young woman smiling

As I write this, my firstborn is 5,633 miles away in Taormina, Sicily. This is the farthest she has ever been away from home. Granted, she will turn 20 three weeks from today. But this is my kid who worries; she is my perfectionist, my empath. So the fact that she is over 5,000 miles from home should freak me out. In all honesty, the thought of it did freak me out for months leading up to this trip. I worried about how she would manage being in a foreign country so far away from all of her familiar places...

Keep Reading

In Our House, Anxiety Won’t Win

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mom standing with son by water

My child has anxiety—just saying that makes me feel anxious and like a failure as a mom. I had never really heard about childhood anxiety until we started walking this path with our son. In the beginning, I wondered what made him incessantly worried about being forgotten or any of the other worries he carries with him all day. For the most part, no one would notice anything different about him. But underneath his calm demeanor in public lies racing thoughts, a million what-ifs, and a boiling pot of anxiety just waiting to unleash itself. My son is fine in places...

Keep Reading

Sometimes the Toughest Kids Have the Most Fragile Hearts

In: Faith, Kids
Little girl playing on the shore, color photo

I have a hard-headed kid. She marches to the beat of her own drum. She doesn’t mind being different. She is always either the first in line or the last in line. She is never wrong, even when she is. She is kind and she is brilliant. She also has low self-esteem. She isn’t attached to anyone or anything. She is incredibly hard on herself. She is a subconscious self-saboteur and we butt heads a lot. She wears her emotions on her sleeve and that is how I first noticed her fragility. You see, she is the middle of five,...

Keep Reading