How can I help my anxious child?

Most people will experience some anxiety, stress or fear at some stage, this includes children. Our lifestyles are busy, and our children do their best to keep up. People often ask me why their child may be feeling anxious. Think about your life; your level of stress, lack of down-time, any major recent changes/stressors (eg. new job, moving house, relationship breakdown, death of a loved one, new baby, family conflict, etc), and the impact they have on you – a mature adult with a fully developed brain and life experience that has equipped you to deal with some level of stress and anxiety. Now imagine being a child trying to deal with all of this, plus having a stressed and cranky parent. They are doing the best they can with the resources they have.

Your management of your child’s anxiety/stress /fear is important. Children need to feel loved, safe and protected. If your child is feeling stressed/anxious/scared, try using these simple and effective tips to help them:

  • Validate and respect his feelings. Their anxiety is real and it is not pleasant. Dismissing their fear as “being silly” is like telling them their feelings are silly and wrong, or not important. Help them put a name to the feeling eg. scared or worried, and ask them to explain how it feels.
  • Listen to them. Ask ‘Why are you feeling scared?’, ‘What are you thinking about?’, ‘What are you worried about?’. Having someone to just listen can be very reassuring.
  • Comfort them. Sometimes they may not feel like talking, or be unsure why they is feeling anxious. Just be there, support them, hug them and tell them you love them.
    Distract them/do something fun. Draw with them, watch a movie together, play a game.
    Ask them what they think they can do to manage their fear or feel better. This will allow them to think of solutions/techniques themself which will help them to feel more in control of the situation.
  • Try to avoid over-scheduling. While extracurricular activities can be important for development, expanding friendship circles etc, too many can cause a child to feel stressed. Children need downtime, quiet time and family time, just as adults do.
  • Keep regular routines in place whenever possible. Routine will help your child to feel more secure and less chaotic and stressed. Eating right and getting enough sleep are important parts of routine.
  • Teach them breathing techniques. Help them to slow down his breathing. Imaginary bubble blowing is a simple and effective technique for children. Practice blowing bubbles with a bubble wand initially. This encourages slow, deep breaths. Then practice blowing imaginary bubbles without a bubble wand.
  • Model effective stress/anxiety management. We all get stressed or anxious from time to time and its ok if your child knows that. Let them know you are feeling stressed and what you intend to do to manage that, eg, talk to friend, take some deep breaths, do something fun, listen to relaxing music, etc. Just be careful not to share adult issues or project your stress on to them.
  • Speak to an expert in child’s health. If you are concerned about your child’s anxiety or fear, seek help from a professional such as a school counsellor, doctor or child psychologist. At Attuned Psychology, we have child psychologists to assist with management of anxiety to help your child. We work with you and your child to develop a plan and therapy goals to ensure the best therapeutic outcome for your child and your family.

Rachel Ielasi,

Psychologist

Subscribe to our newsletter Attuned Life

Would you be interested in receiving our occasional newsletter, event information and other useful tips via e-mail?