+
popular

Three simple yet effective tools for helping a child through a panic attack

Three simple yet effective tools for helping a child through a panic attack
Canva

The first time one of my kids had a panic attack, I didn't have any idea what to do. The pounding heartbeat, racing thoughts, shortness of breath, and feeling like you're losing control are disconcerting symptoms for adults to experience, but they're even more alarming for a child who doesn't know why it's happening. As a parent, it's scary not knowing how to help your child when they clearly need help.

The exact cause of panic disorder is unknown, but experts estimate it affects close to 4 percent of the population. Like other anxiety disorders, it also tends to run in families, which appears to be the case for my kiddos. But even people who don't have a full-fledged disorder can occasionally experience a panic attack, and it's good to know what actually helps.

My youngest was around six years old when he had his first bout of panic. It wasn't long after we'd tucked him into bed when he called for me with a shaky urgency in his voice. When I got to his room, he said he couldn't breathe and that his heart was going really fast. "I don't know what's going on," he said through chattering teeth. "My whole body won't stop shaking and I'm freaking out."

I immediately recognized the signs of panic, having gone through it with his older sister, but he was a lot younger than she had been when she had her first episode. Thankfully, the tools we used with her also worked with him.

Here's how we help our kids through a panic attack:


1) Verbalize what's happening to them.

Panic attacks are intense for the person experiencing them and saying something like "Calm down" isn't really helpful. They want to calm down, they just can't.

For our kids, explaining exactly what's happening, what they can expect to happen, and what they actually can control is the first step toward regaining calm. After the first time through it, they don't need this much detail, but here's a basic script of where we started:

"You're okay, even though it doesn't feel like it. You're just having a panic attack. The fear part of your brain is sort of stuck for a bit, and it keeps revving up your body. It's like your brain thinks there's a tiger chasing you, even though there isn't. That makes your heart beat really fast and makes it hard to breathe. You might feel like you're losing control. You might even feel like you're going crazy. But it'll pass soon, I promise. Panic attacks are just temporary glitches. Your brain and body will calm back own, usually within ten minutes or so. Let's work on helping you feel better while it works its way out of your system."

2) Use "box breathing" to help them catch their breath.

Breathing intentionally is one of the quickest ways to reset when your body is in a heightened state. The best technique we've encountered for this is an exercise called "box breathing" or "square breathing." It's actually a tool Navy Seals use to keep calm under stress, but it's so simple even kids can use it.

Slowly draw the shape of a square in the air, starting from the bottom left-hand corner. As you draw the first line upward, have your child breathe in for a count of five. Then have them hold their breath while you draw the top line, then exhale while you draw down the right side. Finally, have them hold the exhale while completing the square with the bottom line. Then repeat—breathe in, hold, breath out, hold. Around four or five seconds for each breath and hold wonders for getting breathing under control, which helps calm the brain and body.

Here's a quick video that shows how it works. (With our kids, I usually draw the box for them while talking them through the breaths and holds at first, then have them start drawing the box with me as they start to calm down.)

Box breathing relaxation technique: how to calm feelings of stress or anxietyyoutu.be


3) Ground them in reality with the "4-3-2-1" exercise.

Panic is the brain gripped by a state of fear that doesn't reflect what's actually happening. It's basically the amygdala—the fight or flight center of the brain—wigging out for no apparent reason. The intense fear triggers the fight or flight response, forming a sort of feedback loop, with the body freaking out because the brain's freaking out, which makes the body freak out, and so on.

Getting the brain to focus on the body's physical senses can help break that loop and bring the body and brain back to a state of calm (or at least calmer). For this, we use a simple grounding exercise we call "4-3-2-1." (What we do is a variation of the 5-4-3-2-1 method developed by Captain Tom Bunn to help people cope with a fear of flying. You can see that method here.)

Have the child look for and then name, out loud:

- Four things they can see. ("I see my lamp. I see the cat. I see the window. I see my teddy bear.").

- Three things they can feel. ("I feel my pillow. I feel your hand. I feel the sheets.")

- Two things they can hear. ("I hear cars outside. I hear the heater running.")

- One thing they can smell. ("I smell your lotion.")

I always have the kids say a full sentence for each thing they count, as that reinforces the physical aspect of the exercise. Without fail, my kiddos are always calmer when they get to what they can smell. Super simple, but super effective.

It's important to note that these exercises don't stop an attack in its tracks. Panic usually just has to run its course. What they do is take the edge off, make the attack more tolerable, and help the kiddo wait it out without feeling like they have no control at all while it's happening.

Panic attacks and anxiety attacks (which share similar symptoms and can respond to the same tools) aren't fun for kids or for parents. But when a kid knows what's happening and a parent has tools to help them manage it, they're a lot less scary for everyone involved.

The Prince Charles Cinema/Youtube

Brendan Fraser dressed as Rick O'Connell.

Brendan Fraser might be making the greatest career comeback ever, racking up accolades and award nominations for his dramatic, transformative role in “The Whale." But the OG Fraser fans (the ones who watch “Doom Patrol” solely to hear his voice and proudly pronounce his last name as Fray-zure, for this is the proper pronunciation) have known of his remarkable talent since the 90s, when he embodied the ultimate charming, dashing—and slightly goofball—Hollywood action lead.

Let us not forget his arguably most well known and beloved 90s character—Rick O’Connell from the “Mummy” franchise. Between his quippy one-liners, Indiana Jones-like adventuring skills and fabulous hair, what’s not to like?

During a double feature of “The Mummy” and “The Mummy Returns” in London, moviegoers got the ultimate surprise when who should walk in but Brendan Fraser himself, completely decked out in Rick O’Connell attire. The brown leather jacket. The scarf. Everything.

Keep ReadingShow less

This article originally appeared on 01.27.20


From 1940 to 1945, an estimated 1.3 million people were deported to Auschwitz, the largest complex of Nazi concentration camps. More than four out of five of those people—at least 1.1 million people—were murdered there.

On January 27, 1945, Soviet forces liberated the final prisoners from these camps—7,000 people, most of whom were sick or dying. Those of us with a decent public education are familiar with at least a few names of Nazi extermination facilities—Auschwitz, Dachau, Bergen-Belsen—but these are merely a few of the thousands (yes, thousands) of concentration camps, sub camps, and ghettos spread across Europe where Jews and other targets of Hitler's regime were persecuted, tortured, and killed by the millions.

Keep ReadingShow less

Women are looking for love at Home Depot.

Even though people have endless options to find love these days, whether in real life or online, finding the perfect person still isn’t easy. In fact, according to Pew Research, 55% of women believe dating is harder today than it was 10 years ago. So it’s understandable that some are considering ditching the apps to meet people in real life.

Studies show that for people looking for a serious relationship, real life may be the better option.

According to Newsweek, a study by Illinois State University sociology professor Susan Sprecher found that young people who first met face to face were 25% more likely to report feelings of closeness than those who initially met online. Aditi Paul, a communications professor at Pace University in New York, found that people who first met in real life lasted four times longer than those who met online.

Keep ReadingShow less
Joy

A woman treats her miniature pig like a toddler and it even 'talks' with electronic buttons

Merlin will tap buttons that say “eat,” “outside” and “ice cream.”

Photo by Ben Mater on Unsplash

A woman treats her pig like a toddler and the internet can't get enough.

Pigs are cute. Well, piglets are cute, but they usually don't stay those tiny little snorting things very long. That is unless you get a mini pig and name it something majestic like Merlin. (I would've gone with Hamlet McBacon, but no one asked me.)

Mina Alali, a TikTok user from California, has been going viral on the internet for her relationship with Merlin, her miniature pig. Of course, there are plenty of folks out there with pigs—mini pigs, medium pigs, pigs that weigh hundreds of pounds and live in a barn with a spider named Charlotte. But not everyone carries their pig around on adventures like it's their child.

Alali's videos of her sweet interactions with her little pig have gotten a lot of people wanting their own piggy, but training Merlin wasn't always easy. According to Yahoo Finance, the 25-year-old told SWNS that she has wanted a pig her whole life and finding Merlin was a "dream come true," but she wasn't expecting how challenging it would be to train him. If you've never been around pigs, then you may not know that they squeal—a lot—and unless you're living on an actual farm, that could be a problem.

Keep ReadingShow less
Democracy

More than seven thousand people shared their best ideas to stop mass shootings. Here are the best.

Everyone agrees mass shootings need to end. But what can really be done?

A makeshift memorial after the 2019 El Paso mass shooting.

As of January 24, 2023, at least 69 people have been killed in 39 mass shootings across the United States . The deadliest shooting happened on January 21 in Monterey Park, California, when a 72-year-old man shot 20 people, killing 11. On January 23, a 66-year-old man killed 7 people and injured another in a shooting in Half Moon Bay, California.

It’s hard to see these stories in the news every few weeks—or days—and not get desensitized, especially when lawmakers have made it clear that they will not do anything substantive to curb the availability of assault weapons in the U.S.

After the assault weapons ban, which had been in effect for 10 years, lapsed in 2004, the number of mass shootings tripled.

Keep ReadingShow less
Pop Culture

People rally behind a 12-year-old actress who was 'humiliated' with a 'Razzie' nomination

The parody awards show has now enforced an age limit rule to its nominations.

Ryan Kiera Armstrong in the 2022 film 'Firestarter'

Since the early 80s, the Golden Raspberry Awards, aka the "Razzies," has offered a lighthearted alternative to the Oscars, which, though prestigious, can sometimes dip into the pretentious. During the parody ceremony, trophies are awarded to the year’s worst films and performances as a way to "own your bad," so the motto goes.

However, this year people found the Razzies a little more than harmless fun when 12-year-old actress Ryan Kiera Armstrong was nominated for "Worst Actress" for her performance in the 2022 film "Firestarter." She was 11 when the movie was filmed.

Sadly, this is not the first time a child has received a Razzie nom. Armstrong joins the ranks of Jake Lloyd, who played young Anakin Skywalker in "Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace," as well as Macaulay Culkin, who was nominated three times.

Armstrong's nomination resulted in a flood of comments from both industry professionals and fans who felt the action was cruel and wanted to show their support for the young actress.

Keep ReadingShow less