by Stacy Mosel
Most children associate their home with stability, safety, and comfort. As a result, being away from home can cause children anxiety and stress, and sleeping away from home can provoke even more feelings of worry and fear. During sleepaway events, it’s important that your child is reminded you’re thinking about them and that you care about their comfort. But how can a parent offer comfort and support from afar?
Packing an “anti-anxiety kit” for your child is a great way to remind them of your love and care while providing them with useful tools to manage their own anxiety. However, keep in mind that children react differently to certain toys/tools, so you may need to experiment to see what works best for your child. Below are seven items to consider packing in your child’s anti-anxiety kit for their next sleepaway.
1. Fidget Toy
Packing a “fidget” toy in their anti-anxiety kit is a research-backed method to alleviate your child’s stress and anxiety. Fidget toys are sensory tools that can distract from feelings of worry and promote relaxation, calm and soothing when feeling overwhelmed or frustrated. A fidget toy is just what it sounds like: an anxiety relief toy that your child can hold in their hands and squeeze, rotate or just fiddle with, such as a squishy stress ball, silly putty or a spaghetti ball (which has a noodle-like texture and can be pulled, squeezed or stretched).
Brillia is a scientifically-formulated homeopathic product developed to provide a safe and effective way to help your child manage anxiety and deal with stress. Taking Brillia is one of our five pillars (which also includes proper nutrition, adequate sleep, mindfulness and relaxation, as well as controlled screen time) to help your child find balance, stabilize, and thrive. Brillia is recommended for children 5 years of age and up, including teenagers.
Adding Brillia to your child’s anti-anxiety kit can help provide stress and anxiety relief without causing drowsiness or the harmful side-effects of pharmaceutical drugs. If your child is going away on their own, cut a tablet from the blister pack so they know exactly how much they should take while they’re away.
3. Worry Doll
Falling asleep can be tough for children, and anxiety due to sleeping away from home can make this challenge even more difficult. Worry dolls are a tradition that began in Guatemala, where parents teach their children to pass their worries on to a colorful doll (also known as a trouble doll) designed for this purpose. Your child can explain their worries to the worry doll and then tuck the doll under their pillow to help take away their troubles as they sleep. The idea is that the doll handles the child’s worries, relieving them of the burden and allowing them to sleep more peacefully and soundly.
4. Portable Night Light
For a lot of children, anxiety rears its head more frequently when it’s dark outside. The National Sleep Foundation advises using a night light as long as it doesn’t affect your child’s ability to fall asleep. Whether your child suffers from nightmares or needs a bit of reassurance during the wee hours, packing a portable night light can reduce nighttime anxiety and help them fall asleep more easily.
5. Healthy Sensory Snacks
Packing a small bag of familiar, healthy snacks that evoke a pleasurable mouth-feel (crunchy, chewy) can help your child relax. Too many sweets can trigger hyperactivity, so choose healthy items for your child to bring along. Depending on what your child prefers and is used to, you might consider including some crunchy cut-up apples, crisp raw vegetables, or chewy dried fruits in your child’s anti-anxiety kit. MadeGood snacks also make for a good low-sugar and anti-allergy option.
6. Your Child’s Favorite Thing
It might seem to go without saying, but packing loved items like a soft blankie, pillow, your child’s favorite toy or even a family photo can help them stay connected to you and their home while they’re away. Especially if it’s your child’s first sleepover or time away from home, including one or a few of their favorite things can ease the transition and reduce feelings of anxiety, tension, and worry.
7. Noise-Blocking Headphones or Kid-Sized Earplugs
Many children are easily startled by unusual noises, especially at night when they’re away from home and sleeping in an unfamiliar environment. Some anxious children are especially sensitive to noise. Noise-blocking headphones and soothing music (avoid music that excites them) may help them settle down at bedtime. If they are woken up by a strange noise and can’t fall back asleep, they can always put the headphones on and listen to soothing music. Your child can also wear earplugs (if they feel comfortable doing so) to block out unpleasant noises and help them fall into a peaceful slumber.
Remember: It Can Be Fun!
While it’s normal to worry about your child when they’re away from home, it should, in the end, be a fun and enjoyable experience for them. It’s also important to note that being away from home provides an opportunity for growth and learning. Let your child know that they can call you whenever they feel scared or anxious, and if absolutely necessary, you can pick them up and bring them home. But remember that being away from home teaches your child that they are able to handle things that may provoke anxiety and can instill greater feelings of confidence in the long run. With a thoughtfully prepared anti-anxiety kit, your child can be further empowered to handle feelings of anxiety or fear that arise while they’re away and being given the kit itself will remind them of your love and support.
Stacy Mosel, LMSW is a licensed social worker, psychotherapist, certified Reiki practitioner, yoga enthusiast, and musician. She received a Bachelor's degree in Music from the State University of New York at Stony Brook in 1999 and a Master of Social Work from New York University in 2002. She has had extensive training in child and family therapy and the identification and treatment of mental health disorders.