How to Decrease Anxiety and Increase Regulation Skills In Children

In order to avoid or manage challenging behaviours we as parents need a plan. Specifically, I call this the "If...then..." plan. Now this plan can be used at home and at school. In fact, I suggest having the same "If...then..." plan implemented at both.


When creating this plan at home I suggest having the child and both parents (if applicable) be a part of the process. It's important your child has both input on and and understanding of how things are going to work from now on. It's also important that all caregivers are on the same page and that this plan is used at all places where your child resides. It is much easier for children to adapt when the expectations are universal. Otherwise, it can be very confusing and frustrating for a child when there are different expectations at different places and thus increase the chances of pushback and arguments from your child when the plan is implemented at only one household.


When creating this plan at school, I suggest having parents and the child involved as well so that there can be some continuity between what is expected at school and at home. Plus, it's important to learn more about what is/isn't working at home and adjust the plan accordingly so it works in the classroom.


So, what is an "If...then..." plan? An "If...then" plan can be used, and is not limited to the following:

  • Co-Regulation

  • Self-Regulation

  • Setting Boundaries & Consequences

The purpose of the plan is to:

a) Decrease anxiety, which is often the cause of the challenging behaviour, because your child will learn to anticipate what will happen in certain circumstances

b) Increase feelings of safety

c) Increase knowledge of regulation skills

d) Increase an understanding of cause and effect


Here is how an "If...then..." plan works for each of the options stated above:


Co-Regulation Example:

Purpose: To help Jessica manage her aggression and volume when upset

If...then Statement: If Jessica begins to yell then the adult will begin to talk quieter and lower.


Self-Regulation Example:

Purpose: To help Jessica regulate her aggression

If...then Statement: If Jessica becomes frustrated during homework time then she will put on her 5 minute timer and take a break.


Setting Boundaries & Consequences Example:

Purpose: To limit Jessica's use of social media

Statement: If Jessica has not yet completed her homework by 8pm then she must hand in her phone for the night and it will not be returned until the homework is completed.


This is something that can be created for all children of all ages. Yes, it does require some work ahead of time but once you've created this plan with your child these expectations will become second-nature and soon you may start to notice the challenging behaviours decrease, and perhaps, disappear.


I've created a Free Download for you to use to create your own If...then plans. To download, subscribe to my monthly newsletter here and receive your free PDF file! Be sure to share it with friends, teachers, and school counsellors to use in order to support your kiddo this upcoming school year. Good luck, and be good to yourself!



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