Topic: Anxious About Illness

I am working with a 9 year old who gets anxious when other kids are sick, that is if the vomit, cough etc.; she becomes so anxious that she can’t stay in the room. What games or stories or other materials I can use with her? Brenda, New York

The most important thing you need to teach children with anxiety problems is how to self-calm and relax. All relaxation techniques have the same effect, but most kids respond to guided imagery, and deep breathing techniques (breathing from the diaphragm not the chest). The important thing to remember is that kids have to practice relaxation techniques every day, for at least 10 minutes a day, not just in session. My own work suggests that if children practice relaxation techniques for 21 days, they will feel that they have mastered this important emotional skill, and will be able to apply it to anxiety situations.

After your child feels confident about controlling her anxiety, then you can role-play a situation like the one you described. Again, practice makes perfect. This role-playing should be done frequently if it is to have the desired effect.

You might want to check out a workbook I wrote called “The Relaxation Workbook for Kids” (New Harbinger Publications). It is availble from most major retailers, including, or as an e-book from In this workbook I teach kids the importance of learning to relax to manage stress and anxiety, and suggest many different ways for kids to relax, including meditation, yoga, play techniques, and more.

Lawrence Shapiro, Ph.D.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

brenda November 4, 2010 at 6:31 pm

Thank you for your suggestions, I will look into getting the book.


eczjitml July 11, 2014 at 10:58 am
Louise July 11, 2014 at 10:33 pm

Great tips thank you so much. My boy has anxiety issues and with the Winter now he is becoming worried about getting sick. Will grab a copy of your book. Thanks so much. Louise :)

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