How To Deal With A Child Experiencing Anxiety

This is our new reality, and my goal is to help herr adapt while providing a safe and comfortable environment.


Like most children in this country, my daughter has been home attending virtual school for almost a year. She was resilient in the face of uncertainty and adapted to the circumstances as best she could. I'd say she's doing a fantastic job for a seven-year-old.

As the weeks turned into months and returning to school and her normal routine seemed less and less unlikely, she continued to persevere. Picking up hobbies like TikTok and gymnastics - she taught herself to do a cartwheel and a split - they helped her keep her morale high. The summer months were even better. The loosened COVID-restrictions meant she could be around more family and a few friends. There were sleepovers at her grandmother's house and play dates with her favorite cousins. My fiance and I took her out for fresh air in between working from home, and everything seemed, well, normal.

Then the fall came, and I started to notice a shift in how she approached the day. She became less inclined to creating and learning new things and grew more interested in consuming the videos of her favorite YouTube stars and staying home and relaxing. The weather change did not allow much to do outdoors, so she made it work. That is when I observed she was becoming increasingly more anxious.

Parenting A Child With Anxiety


The CDC reports that "anxiety may present as fear or worry, but can also make children irritable and angry. Anxiety symptoms can also include trouble sleeping, as well as physical symptoms like fatigue, headaches, or stomachaches. Some anxious children keep their worries to themselves and, thus, the symptoms can be missed."

Her new worries and trouble sleeping were impossible to miss since we quarantined together. She became very literal, questioning the noises from the nearby train station and the airport and wondering if they were anything more than that. I was partly to blame for these heightened emotions; we watched the news without consideration, so she was in earshot of the current events from COVID to racial injustice. I didn't think there was any harm since none of this piqued her interest before, but with nothing but time on her hands, things changed.

There is one concept that comes to mind called the mean world syndrome. It was coined in the late-1960s by U.S. communications professor Dr. George Gerbner, whose life work explored the effects of television on viewers. The Wired wrote:

"His work showed that a heavy diet of violent content in news and entertainment convinces viewers the world is more dangerous than it actually is. Back when Gerbner did the bulk of his analysis, media was a smaller and quieter place. Now we have 24-hour access to news channels, movies, and net content."
We are inundated with news even when we do not go searching for it. As a mom, this brings me pause and reconsideration of how we approach media and technology in our home.

Like some of her hobbies, I think this is a phase brought on by being stir-crazy. Neither one of us has experienced anything like this, and we are all doing the best that we can. It broke my heart when she asked if we would still have to wear masks in the new year, and I had the unfortunate task of telling her yes. She was fine, but it sucked. I wish she could experience her childhood without the fear of this virus and how it's changed the world around her. But, such is life, this is our new reality, and my goal is to help her adapt while providing a safe and comfortable environment.


How To Deal With A Child Experiencing Anxiety

One of the ways we are combating anxiety is by discussing our emotions out loud. I start with questions like: How do you feel? What brought this on? How can I help? And what do you need (to get unstuck)? We must validate our emotions and recognize how they affect us, and if possible, the root cause. Parents must provide their children with a safe space, to be honest. Next, we have to own them and recognize we control our reactions, not people, places, or events. And with that, sometimes we need help to work ourselves out of a problem, and that's OK.

Anytime we have dealt with adversity in the past, we practiced affirmations. Here are the affirmations that I used to combat anxiety and to help her do the same:

  • I am safe.
  • I am whole.
  • I am complete.
  • Everything is going to be OK.

We repeat this mantra until our spirits lift. I've also incorporated mindfulness to decrease anxiety by focusing on deep breathing to replace the feeling with a more calm disposition.

Have your child breathe in through their nose and out through their mouths for five seconds each. Keep their eyes closed to rest and get into a meditative state. This should help them renew their energy.

I am grateful that I can help her build her emotional vocabulary to use the right words when talking about her feelings. It will make her a stronger, more self-aware person as she matures.

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Before she was Amira Unplugged, rapper, singer, and a Becoming a Popstar contestant on MTV, she was Amira Daughtery, a twenty-five year-old Georgian, with aspirations of becoming a lawyer. “I thought my career path was going to lead me to law because that’s the way I thought I would help people,” Amira tells xoNecole. “[But] I always came back to music.”

A music lover since childhood, Amira grew up in an artistic household where passion for music was emphasized. “My dad has always been my huge inspiration for music because he’s a musician himself and is so passionate about the history of music.” Amira’s also dealt with deafness in one ear since she was a toddler, a condition which she says only makes her more “intentional” about the music she makes, to ensure that what she hears inside her head can translate the way she wants it to for audiences.

“The loss of hearing means a person can’t experience music in the conventional way,” she says. “I’ve always responded to bigger, bolder anthemic songs because I can feel them [the vibrations] in my body, and I want to be sure my music does this for deaf/HOH people and everyone.”

A Black woman wearing a black hijab and black and gold dress stands in between two men who are both wearing black pants and colorful jackets and necklaces

Amira Unplugged and other contestants on Becoming a Popstar

Amira Unplugged / MTV

In order to lift people’s spirits at the beginning of the pandemic, Amira began posting videos on TikTok of herself singing and using sign language so her music could reach her deaf fans as well. She was surprised by how quickly she was able to amass a large audience. It was through her videos that she caught the attention of a talent scout for MTV’s new music competition show for rising TikTok singers, Becoming a Popstar. After a three-month process, Amira was one of those picked to be a contestant on the show.

Becoming a Popstar, as Amira describes, is different from other music competition shows we’ve all come to know over the years. “Well, first of all, it’s all original music. There’s not a single cover,” she says. “We have to write these songs in like a day or two and then meet with our producers, meet with our directors. Every week, we are producing a full project for people to vote on and decide if they’d listen to it on the radio.”

To make sure her deaf/HOH audiences can feel her songs, she makes sure to “add more bass, guitar, and violin in unique patterns.” She also incorporates “higher pitch sounds with like chimes, bells, and piccolo,” because, she says, they’re easier to feel. “But it’s less about the kind of instrument and more about how I arrange the pattern of the song. Everything I do is to create an atmosphere, a sensation, to make my music a multi-sensory experience.”

She says that working alongside the judges–pop stars Joe Jonas and Becky G, and choreographer Sean Bankhead – has helped expand her artistry. “Joe was really more about the vocal quality and the timber and Becky was really about the passion of [the song] and being convinced this was something you believed in,” she says. “And what was really great about [our choreographer] Sean is that obviously he’s a choreographer to the stars – Lil Nas X, Normani – but he didn’t only focus on choreo, he focused on stage presence, he focused on the overall message of the song. And I think all those critiques week to week helped us hone in on what we wanted to be saying with our next song.”

As her star rises, it’s been both her Muslim faith and her friends, whom she calls “The Glasses Gang” (“because none of us can see!”), that continue to ground her. “The Muslim and the Muslima community have really gone hard [supporting me] and all these people have come together and I truly appreciate them,” Amira says. “I have just been flooded with DMs and emails and texts from [young muslim kids] people who have just been so inspired,” she says. “People who have said they have never seen anything like this, that I embody a lot of the style that they wanted to see and that the message hit them, which is really the most important thing to me.”

A Black woman wears a long, salmon pink hijab, black outfit and pink boots, smiling down at the camera with her arm outstretched to it.

Amira Unplugged

Amira Unplugged / MTV

Throughout the show’s production, she was able to continue to uphold her faith practices with the help of the crew, such as making sure her food was halal, having time to pray, dressing modestly, and working with female choreographers. “If people can accept this, can learn, and can grow, and bring more people into the fold of this industry, then I’m making a real difference,” she says.

Though she didn’t win the competition, this is only the beginning for Amira. Whether it’s on Becoming a Popstar or her videos online, Amira has made it clear she has no plans on going anywhere but up. “I’m so excited that I’ve gotten this opportunity because this is really, truly what I think I’m meant to do.”

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