Mother helping stressed teenage daughter with homework

Dealing with overwhelm is challenging – it is very easy to be consumed and overwhelmed by things that are happening in life. It may be a big project, a life event, starting a new school or a set of tests.

These events can be worrying and provoke anxiety if the child is aware of the whole picture, such as the number of tests, and the organisation that it is going to take for the event or the project. A child may think, “Wow, it is going to take up so much of my time, it looks difficult and how am I ever going to be able to do that?” They may feel defeated before they have even started. So how can adults help children deal with overwhelm and anxiety and get the job done?

Easily. If parents help children break the situation down into little steps to make it more manageable, it’s easier for the child to focus on one small thing at a time. It’s a bit like, how do you eat an elephant? You can’t in one go!

Helping Children to Plan Overwhelming Projects

Grab a pen and paper, then sit down with your child and go through the steps to be completed for them to reach the bigger goal. That might be studying for exams, taking part in a sporting competition – any big thing that they want to achieve.

The steps will be different depending on the event but for a sporting competition, the steps might be:

  1. Sending in an entry form
  2. Looking at their training schedule and the areas they need to focus on
  3. Working on a healthy diet
  4. Creating a timetable so they can fit training in around doing homework.

Jotting down any steps they can think of and putting them in order will help clear their mind and give them a positive framework to follow and focus on. As the child completes each step, they can tick it off on a piece of paper, or in their mind. It will help them to see that they are making progress. Whenever they feel overwhelmed, get them to focus just on the current step only. Nothing else.

In my role as a life coach for children, I do find that some children are looking at the picture far into the future and not at the ‘now’. They put too much pressure on themselves to complete work/projects to a high standard whether that’s getting into their preferred school, making friends or passing exams so they can get into college. What is important is what is going on in the present and doing their best now, in a more relaxed way. The small steps will lead them to the bigger picture eventually.

Read more on how to calm overwhelm.  If you’d like to book a life coaching session for your child, get in touch on 07961312749 to see if I can help.

[Originally published September 2020 | Updated April 2024]