Our thoughts and actions affect how we feel. By changing distorted thinking and dysfunctional behavior, we can change our emotions. In Nixie and Nimbo we explore some tools children can use to control their anxiety rather than letting it control them.
Nixie is afraid of meeting new people, but she’s not alone.
Some kids have a harder time fitting in. Cornerstones of childhood interaction, like sharing a toy or playing make-believe, might not come naturally. While parents can’t make friends for their children, they can help them develop and practice key social skills. If you see your child struggling to make friends or getting rejected by other kids, here are some steps you can take to help.
Nixie sees that even brave knights get scared sometimes.
When kids get scared, as parents our natural instinct is often to soothe and comfort. There’s nothing under the bed, I promise! But, realistically, parents can’t — and shouldn’t — always be there to help kids calm down. Teaching children how to manage fears without parental intervention helps them build the confidence and independence they need to feel more in control and less afraid, both now and as they grow up.
Nixie has to conquer her fear of heights and learns the power of breathing from monkeys on a mountain.
Deep breathing is the first step in a practice called mindfulness, which helps you focus on what’s happening here and now — not what might have been or what you’re worried could happen next. The goal is to give you enough distance from disturbing thoughts and emotions to be able to observe them without immediately reacting to them.
Nixie is afraid to go on the mine cart ride, but she learns that her fears don’t match the facts.
Encourage your child to tolerate anxiety. Helping children avoid the things they are afraid of will make them feel better in the short term, but it reinforces the anxiety over the long run because they don’t confront the fear. Instead, you can express confidence that your child can handle scary situations and that their anxiety level will drop over time.
Nimbo faces a fear of his own, with a little help from Nixie.
Many of the lessons Nixie and Nimbo learn during their adventure can be found in a treatment for kids with anxiety called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). One of the most important techniques in CBT for children with anxiety is called exposure and response prevention. The basic idea is that kids are exposed to the things that trigger their anxiety in structured, incremental steps, and in a safe setting. As they become accustomed to each of the triggers in turn, the anxiety fades, and they are ready to take on increasingly powerful triggers.