Apps to Help Pre-schoolers Cope with Anxiety
By Tracey Dowdy
Anxiety is a normal emotion that affects every age and every stage of childhood. However, younger children are particularly prone to bouts of anxiety, with pre-school drop-off representing one of the more difficult times for parents and children alike.
Jen Theule, registered psychologist and assistant professor in the department of psychology at the University of Manitoba says, “Younger children are less able to articulate their worries.” It’s difficult for them to verbalize exactly why they’re anxious or what’s triggering the anxiety. It maybe be too many people, sounds, separating from parents, or simply the uncertainty that comes from a change in routine.
Renee Jain, creator of the GoZen! anxiety relief program for kids suggests the FEEL Method to help de-escalate emotions and help your child self-soothe.
Freeze — Simply stop and take deep breaths with your child. Deep breathing can help reverse the nervous system response and calm the situation and your child.
Empathize — Anxiety is innately frightening. Let your child know you understand and validate their feelings.
Evaluate — Once your child is calm, talk about possible solutions.
Let Go – Let go of your guilt; this isn’t your fault. You cannot control another person’s emotions but you can help them work through them.
These apps and websites can help your pre-schooler work through their anxious feelings and pick up the tools they need to face the next challenge.
GoZen! uses animated videos to teach kids how to overcome anxious feelings, become resilient and have a sense of well-being. The videos are complemented by games, workbooks and quizzes to reinforce what they’re learning without feeling heavy-handed. The videos are easily accessed any time – they’re free and there’s nothing to download. (Online – Free)
Headspace is a popular app for adults with anxiety but it is very effective for children as well. The app uses guided meditation mindfulness to teach adults and kids how to calm themselves in stressful situations or when they experience anxious feelings. There are hundreds of sessions to choose from that cover everything from sleep to stress and SOS exercises to avoid meltdowns. The basic version of the app is free, but there are expanded versions available for a subscription fee of $12.99 per month or $94.99 per year. (Android – free; iOS – free)
The Breathe, Think, and Do with Sesame app helps kids learn how to calm down and problem-solve as they help a Sesame Street monster learn self-control. The app is part of Sesame Street’s Little Children, Big Challenges initiative, which “aims to provide tools to help children build skills for resilience, and overcome everyday challenges and more stressful situations and transitions.” Specially designed to work with kids ages 2-5, the app allows kids to pop bubbles to help the monster breathe and think of ways to solve their problems so they can feel better. You can personalize it with encouraging phrases especially for your child and there is a robust section of parent resources so you can navigate these challenges with your child. (Android – free; iOS – free)
Stop, Breathe & Think is a “mindful games” app designed specifically for kids ages 5 – 10. Kids use emojis to identify their feelings and go on “mindful missions” to identify their emotions. The app uses stickers as motivation to kids to keep progressing through their mission and motivate them to reach their goal. Kids learn how to fall asleep, deal with being overwhelmed, stressed, worried, disappointed, and sad, and they’ll learn compassion for others who are also struggling. (iOS – Free)
Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.