There are many things we can do to help children to be less worried and tense. Stress is often the result of feeling that no matter what you do, you don’t have control over your life. Any challenge feels like it’s too much. Stress can also come from feeling as if the world is a scary, lonely place. It can come about by being cowed by failure and a fear of making mistakes.

To prevent stress in our children we need to find ways to help children feel that they can effect change in their own lives, that life is good, failures are just steppingstones to success and finally that they can manage the challenges that come their way.

Here are 7 things to say to our children that can help us do just that:

1. “Think ahead, and I’m sure you can handle it.”

We often say to our children, “Be careful!” Our constant warnings paint the world as a scary place. It also sends the message that they don’t know how to conduct themselves out in the world safely.

It is better if we can use more positive language, like “Use your head and have fun!” This helps children embrace life, new experiences and lets children know that we believe in their ability to manage themselves in the outside world. Children whose parents give off the vibe that children are trustworthy and will conduct themselves appropriately are more likely to have children that are trustworthy and conduct themselves appropriately.

2. “Can you tell me one good thing that happened to you today?”

Parents often grumble about their children’s constant complaints and all-around moodiness. There is something called the “negativity bias.” People are more attuned to the negative in their lives than the positive. It has been suggested that this hearkens back to pre-historic times, where extra vigilance needed to be taken to protect oneself from predators. Whatever the reason, sometimes positivity needs to be taught explicitly to children.

Asking your kids to describe something positive that happened to them at dinner or at bedtime can go a long way in reinforcing optimism in our children. A positive attitude can go a long way in preventing worries in our kids.

3. “When you are ready and get comfortable, you can try the new bike, getting into the water, saying hello to your teacher… ”

We sometimes push children to do things before they are ready and comfortable, adding more stress. Letting children know that we will support them as they try new things or meet new people will allow them to embrace new activities, or even ideas more readily. Acknowledge your child’s timetable; believe that they will eventually be ready for novel experiences.

4. “Reading new words can be hard.” or “Tying shoelaces takes a lot of fancy finger work.”

When children are learning new skills, (and they should be learning new skills often; that’s what childhood is all about!) can be frustrating, or disheartening. We want to acknowledge that and validate their feelings. We want to avoid using phrases that disregard children’s fears and hesitancy: “There is nothing to be afraid of. The book won’t bite.” “Tying shoes is easy, I’ll show you how.”

Instead, validate their feelings and give them the space to feel and express their concerns and fears.

5. “Mistakes are a great way to learn new ways to do things.”

Stress in children often comes from a fear of making mistakes or failure. Reassuring children that they will not get in trouble for making mistakes and that it’s an important part of life can go a long way in reducing a child’s anxiety.

This is sometimes hard for adults to do, but we need to let children make mistakes and learn from them. We need to watch them struggle, solve their own problems and let them do as much as they can for themselves. This helps children embrace life without fear and builds within them a mindset, that they can handle anything life throws at them.

6. “When you were a baby, you couldn’t walk. Look at you now! You run so fast, I can hardly keep up with you.”

Reminding children of their past accomplishments breeds confidence. We want children to take note of their accomplishments so that they can see how far they have come without focusing on the mistakes they may have made on the journey.

7. “This question is a hard one to answer, and I don’t even know if there is a right answer out there. What do you think?”

Children who are anxious are often fearful of taking risks; they feel as if everything needs to be perfect. This may be true especially in the classroom when they are asked questions or asked to share their opinions. We can build a child’s risk comfort level so they will learn to have a healthier view of failure.

Like in the above phrase, we can encourage risk taking by prefacing any of our questions or even discussion with invitations to be wrong. This helps children feel more confident about voicing their opinions and risk being wrong without embarrassment. Teaching children to have the courage to volunteer an answer that may not be correct can be helpful to those who suffer from school anxiety.