Creative Child

Calming the Butterflies

by Sarah Lyons


Visualize and problem solve

If your child is nervous about an upcoming recital, performance, or game have them sit still, close their eyes, and visualize each step of the upcoming event and how it will go. Picture a positive outcome with everything going smoothly. During the visualization process, address any obstacles your child may foresee. “Before an ice skating performance we consider what would happen if she fell - just get back up, no big deal.” says Jane Hammond, mom of three. Problem solve with your child how you can overcome any of the challenges they may be worrying about. For younger kids, acting out the situation that is making them nervous can be very helpful. “Our boys used to have a really hard time with doctor appointments. We bought a doctor set and ‘played doctor’ while talking about what to expect. They love going now!” says Becky Asher, mom to triplet boys.

As the big day approaches, set your child up for success with a good night of rest and a healthy diet before the event. This will help them feel they are at their best when the butterflies arrive. Explain to your child that even adults get nervous about situations and these feelings are normal. Children tend to feel more secure in new situations when they know they have your support and understanding along the way.

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Sidebar: Symptoms of anxiety in children

While some nervousness is normal in children, kids may suffer from extreme anxiety that negatively affects their day to day life. If your child is experiencing the following symptoms it may be time to seek additional help:

  • Children with extreme anxiety may “act out” with tantrums, refusal to do typical activities, and generally disobedient behaviors.
  • Excessive and extreme worry about normal, everyday activities that causes them to miss out on events at school or with friends. (
  • They may be restless, have difficulty concentrating, have trouble sleeping, and experience irritability.
  • They may also experience physical difficulties such as muscle tension, frequent urination, stomach aches, difficulty swallowing, and headaches. (

If you believe your child may have an anxiety disorder, seek professional help for an official diagnosis and support. In the meantime, continue to be supportive and patient with your child and let them know you will help them work through these challenges.


Sarah Lyons is a stay at home wife and mother of six children, including 18 month old triplets. Using creative consequences with her kids has improved their behavior and encourages healthy relationships with each other.

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