How To Help Kids Cope With Anxiety, From Deepak Chopra's Daughter
Anxiety is truly an epidemic these days, with people experiencing symptoms at an increasingly younger age. That's why Mallika Chopra, mother, author, and entrepreneur, wrote a mindfulness book meant for kids. Since anxiety afflicts so many at such a young age, it only makes sense to give this younger population the tools they need to overcome it.
As the famous Deepak Chopra's daughter, she sure knows a thing or two about how to live mindfully. Chopra sat down with me on this episode of the mindbodygreen podcast to discuss her new book, called Just Feel, as well as how to raise mindful kids in an overstimulating, fast-paced world.
For now, she offers three ways parents can help kids overcome their anxiety. With these tools, anxiety might not seem so scary—in fact, it might even become pretty manageable:
1. Help them name their feelings.
The first step, according to Chopra, is to help your kids identify exactly what their feelings are. This process might sound rather easy for an adult, but your kids might not have as much as a robust vocabulary, so it can be difficult for them to understand just how they're feeling.
For example, they might tell you that they generally feel "bad." But are they feeling lonely? Are they frustrated or angry? Are they feeling embarrassed? Having the power to name their feelings, says Chopra, is the first step to having the power to overcome them in the future.
"It's really about just understanding what feelings are, where they come from, and also that it's totally normal to feel this way," she says.
Naming their feelings is a mindfulness practice in itself, she explains, where kids can sit and reflect on how they feel, becoming more aware of what triggers certain emotions.
2. Help them acknowledge how their body responds.
After your kids can connect with their feelings, Chopra says it's important to help them identify where they "feel" those emotions in the body.
"Our body really manifests what we feel," she notes.
So, when you talk with your children, dive deeper into those specific feelings. If they're feeling nervous, what does that look like? Are they feeling butterflies in their stomach? Are they feeling nauseous or clammy? If they're feeling scared, does their body heat up, or does their heart start beating at a rapid pace?
Connecting feelings to certain sensations in the body, Chopra explains, is an important mindfulness practice for your kids as well. As they reflect on what those feelings are and how their body typically responds, they can take control of those feelings.
"They won't let their body and mind just take over," Chopra adds.
3. Give them tools to deal with those feelings.
Chopra's final step, she says, is to help your kids discover the tools they need to deal with their anxious feelings. Whether it's a breathing exercise, a journal exercise, or even a gratitude practice, help your kid determine what works for them in a particularly anxious moment.
Sometimes, Chopra says, even the process of naming their feelings can become a valuable tool. "Naming by itself starts to tame the feeling," she says.
No matter which specific tool works for your children, these methods will help them shift from that familiar fight-or-flight response to a more conscious response.
While Chopra's tips are meant for kids, it's important that adults recognize their feelings and take control as well. As you guide your child through these steps, feel free to take mental notes for your own stress—you may even feel a little less anxious yourself!
But the best part about Chopra's method, arguably, is that your kids can eventually remember these steps themselves and gain power over their own anxiety. This agency can help them feel a little more independent, and they might not feel as crushed by their anxious symptoms.
After all, Chopra says, "A lot of kids know that they're anxious, and they want to do something about it."
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