My youngest started showing signs of anxiety when she was around three. Her worries brought hard questions, behaviors, and many late night chats, all of which sent me into my own panic. Seeing the very thing I hoped to never pass on to my children manifest, was, well, worrisome. It soon became clear that in order to help my daughter with her worries, I needed to make sure we both had the help we needed. Online programs, books, and apps have not only helped us manage our anxiety, but they’ve also shaped the way we homeschool.
As homeschool moms, we set the tone and the schedule. We can take breaks when we need to, relax, and try new things. While these gifts and benefits of homeschooling help all children, they can be especially helpful for the anxious child.
Tips for Homeschooling an Anxious Child
I’ve found the following to be helpful in our homeschool day:
- Allow for extra time. Leaving the house, moving from activity to activity, and change can be stressful. My child does best when she has ample time to transition to something new. Time warnings and timers give her a sense of what's coming and what to expect.
- Talk about what's ahead. Surprises can throw a child who is anxious for a loop. At the beginning of each day, my children and I talk about what we'll be doing. I also make sure to mention upcoming classes or outings at the beginning of the week and the night before. Again, tone and timing are important. I don't want to overwhelm her with everything she has to do.
- Explain why people worry. Anxiety can make kids feel like there is something wrong with them. It’s important to talk about how everyone worries, how fear keeps us safe, and how being afraid of a hot stove or a busy street is a good thing. My daughter and I talk about how, for some of us, the part of our brain that worries runs on overtime, but there are ways we can teach it to slow down.
- Practice breathing or meditation. Breathing through worry has been instrumental in helping both my daughter and me with our anxieties. Focusing on breath not only helps de-escalate panic at the moment, but it also helps the mind learn to experience calm throughout the day.
- Be flexible. I have always appreciated the flexibility homeschooling provides, but when it comes to my child with anxiety, I am especially thankful. On the hard days, we can adjust without the worry of being absent. Reading, games, and playing outside are all the things that help my daughter, and they can happen when they need to happen. There is plenty of time to work on the hard stuff, take breaks, and have time left over to figure out what works and what doesn't.
- Seek professional help. Sometimes individuals with anxiety need professionals and specialized resources. Homeschooling offers time to visit with specialists throughout the day. There's also the added benefit of having the time to work on therapies whenever the child needs them.
Online Resources for Anxious Kids and Parents
- Go Zen is an online program for kids and teens. Go Zen has engaging cartoons and activities to help with anxiety, stress, OCD, building resilience, and teaching mindfulness. They teach children why they worry, how fear is vital to our survival, and how to manage their minds when the part of their brain that worries doesn't want to stop.
- Headspace App is an app that teaches meditation and mindfulness. Headspaces program for kids focuses on calm, focus, kindness, sleep, and wake up.
- Stop, Breathe, Think Kids App is a wonderful way for kids to check in with how they are feeling, use breathing exercise to change their mindset, and physically see the change.
- Insight Timer App has over 8,000 free guided meditations, bells, timers, and reminders. I set a bell to chime every two hours. My daughter and I both hear that chime, stop what we're doing and take a couple of deep breaths. So simple and so helpful.
Books for Anxious Kids and Their Parents
- Planting Seeds: Practicing Mindfulness with Children by Thich Nhat Hanh
- When Sophie Gets Really Angry by Molly Bang
- Dont Panic, Annika, by Juliet Clare Bell
- A Boy and a Bear-A Child's Relaxation Book by Lori Lite
- Is a Worry Worrying You by Ferida Wolff
- What to Do When You Worry Too Much: A Kid's Guide to Overcoming Anxiety by Dawn Huebner and Bonnie Matthews
- The Opposite of Worry: The Playful Parenting Approach to Childhood Anxieties and Fears by Lawrence J. Cohen
- 10 Mindful Minutes by Goldie Hawn
Homeschooling an anxious child is not easy, but with the right resources and mindset, it can offer the anxious mind a respite from worries.
About the Author
Kelly left teaching middle and high school English to homeschool her children and reclaim how she and her family spent their time. Followers of interest-led learning, her family's days rarely look the same, but they tend to include a lot of books, art supplies, and time outside.
Kelly facilitates local writing circles for women and children and blogs about nurturing the love of learning on her blog, Curiosity Encouraged. She loves to journal, read memoirs, hike, and travel. She seeks quiet mornings and good coffee daily.