Knowing how to help your little one through their feelings is hard. Anxiety is tough as an adult, so you can imagine how difficult it would be for a 2 or 3 year old to outwardly express their anxiety. If your toddler is struggling with anxiety, there are some helpful things you can say. Anxiety can sometimes be a healthy emotion, as long as it is not experienced in excessiveness.
If anxiety is left unchecked, then it can lead to excessive fear and worry. If you have a toddler who is anxious, you will need some tools in your emotional toolbox to help them out.
What to Say to Your Anxious Toddler
As humans, we say a lot of WRONG things. When it comes to your toddler and their anxiousness, it’s important that you say the RIGHT things. Here is what to say to your anxious toddler:
“I AM HERE TO LISTEN”
I know that you may want to tell your child what to say and think right now, but they may just need to know you are listening.
Whether they are crying tears or speaking gibberish, they may just need you to listen. You can tell your anxious toddler that you’re here to listen!
“LET’S DRAW IT”
What if your toddler cannot put into words how they feel? You can say 3 simple words and those words are “let’s draw it.”
When your toddler has a chance to draw what they’re feeling, amazing things are happening. They are learning to work through their emotions. Also, they may forget about what is making them anxious.
Drawing is such a good tool in helping your anxious toddler work through how they are feeling. Give it a try!
You can also have them shape their emotions out of playdough using something like these Emotions Playdough Mats.
“WHAT IS SOMETHING WE CAN DO TO MAKE YOU FEEL BETTER?”
What if there was one thing you could do to help your toddler not feel as anxious?
One thing you can do is ask a question. That question is “what is something we can do to make you feel better?”
You know your toddler best. What is going to help them feel less anxious?
- Maybe it’s watching their favourite show
- Or being held as you sing
- Maybe it’s holding and snuggling their favourite stuffed animal
- Or perhaps it’s holding your hand
Let your toddler decide what will make them feel less anxious! Give it a try.
“How Do You Feel?” or “HOW DOES THIS WORRY MAKE YOU FEEL?”
Although, this may seem like a simple question, it’s a big question to an anxious toddler.
Asking your toddler how they feel or how their worry makes them feel is important. This validates that your toddler has a big feeling.
Feeling anxious is not fun. Talking to your toddler and helping them understand how anxiety makes them feel is vital to their development.
Toddlers may not yet have the vocabulary to express their feelings. It is so important to give them those skills. You can find some hands-on activities and ideas in our Teaching Emotions Toolkit.
What could possibly make a toddler feel anxious?
- New routine
- New setting
- An activity they don’t like
Talk to your toddler about their anxiousness and their worry.
“WHAT CAN WE DO TO HELP YOU GET CALM?”
The thing about being an adult is that most adults know how to calm themselves down. Toddlers need a lot of help.
Just like you have to parent toddlers with everything else in their life, you need to help them with this aspect as well.
If your toddler is feeling anxious, then it’s important to give them options to calm down.
Here are some ideas:
The calming down technique may be custom to your toddler. It may take a while to figure out something that works, but you can do this.
How Do I Know If My Toddler Has Anxiety?
Honestly, if your toddler has anxiety, you might not even be able to recognize it. Anxiety is actually quite complicated. The heart rate can speed up, the stomach may be in knots, a ball in the chest. Anxiety can look different for each person.
If your concerns continue, speak to your child’s paediatrician.
What Can Cause an Anxiety Attack?
So many different things can cause an anxiety attack. When a person feels stress, worry, or fear, it can lead to a lot of anxiety or even an anxiety attack.
There is no age limit for anxiety attacks, so keep this in mind as you deal with your anxious toddler. What looks like a tantrum may in fact be something related to anxiety. Read more about anxiety symptoms in children.