Panic attacks can affect people of any age. They often include an overpowering sense of dread and physical manifestations of anxiety.
As a parent, teacher, or anyone who interacts with young children, it’s essential to know how to help them through this challenging process. It’s scary for everyone, especially children! They don’t have as much practice in self-regulating emotions as adults and may not know what’s happening.
Tips to Teach Your Child on Combatting Panic Attacks
If your child has a mental health disorder or has never shown signs of panic before, read on to learn what you can do to help them.
Know the Signs of Panic Attacks
The first step to dealing with a panic attack is knowing that one is happening. They can last from 10 to 20 minutes before fading and may not have an apparent cause. Look for the signs a child might be having one, and encourage them to look for them, too.
A panic attack can include a lot of mental and physical signs:
- a sense of dread or immediate danger
- rapid heartbeat
- shortness of breath, or feelings of choking
- chest pain
Encourage Grounding Techniques
The 4-7-8 breathing technique is a deep breathing method that can help a child relax out of a panicked state. Have them breathe in for 4 seconds, hold their breath for 7 seconds, then breathe out for 8 seconds. It’s also called triangle breathing because of the three lengths of time.
You can encourage them to tense and relax their muscles, either all of them at once or one section of the body at a time.
Finally, there is the 5-4-3-2-1 grounding method. Encourage them to find:
- Five things they can see
- Four things they can hear
- Three things they can touch
- Two things they can smell
- One thing they can taste
These grounding techniques focus their mind on something other than the panic, which can help turn down the fight-or-flight response.
Listen to Their Needs
A panic attack is overwhelming! It can be hard to know what you need when experiencing one and even harder to communicate.
Some children may want to be held, while others may not want to be touched. They may want music and loud sounds around them to distract them or total silence. Be sensitive to their needs, and remind them to do the same for themselves.
Please remind your child that this will pass without dismissing how they feel at the moment. Remind them that there was a time before the panicking started, so there will be a time after it.
Once the panic has passed, let them rest and recover at their own pace.
Self-care after a panic attack might be:
Combatting Panic Attacks
Panic attacks are never easy. But we hope that this list of tips will help you and your child navigate this challenge together and be better prepared for the future.