How to Help Children with their Anxiety
Children, just like adults, can experience high levels of anxiety about a myriad of things such as friendships, school bullies, family issues or school grades. The COVID-19 pandemic affected all of us, including children. The pandemic saw the prevalence of anxiety and depression double with research finding that about 18 – 23% of children experienced anxiety during the pandemic, with the majority of those being girls. On average, 25% of adolescents also experienced anxiety which again was double the pre-pandemic rate.
Anxiety is difficult enough as an adult but as a child it can be scary, confusing, and completely unknown. Children need to be helped to understand what this horrible feeling is. Here are a few ways to help your child with their mental health:
Children need to be able to talk about their worries and fears. As a parent you may feel the need to tell them ‘it will all be okay, there is nothing to worry about’ but this can make children feel as though their worries are silly. They need to feel as though their worries are validated and a lot of the time their worries are possible. Give them time to talk about their worries and really listen to what they are saying, that way you are better able to help them cope with this fear. Let them know that no matter what, they can always talk to you and that talking is important.
It is so important to help your child understand what anxiety is and that it is normal to experience anxiety. Children can begin to feel strange or weird, especially if their friends are not dealing with anxiety. You need them to know that they are not alone and there are ways of coping with anxiety.
Teach ways of coping
Teach your child ways of coping with anxiety such as talking to you or someone they trust, being active, doing things that are fun, or challenging negative thoughts. If you meditate maybe try to make it fun so your child wants to join in.
Most children find routine reassuring and can make them feel safe. Keeping a routine is important and can make a big difference to your child’s anxiety, you may even find it improves your own mental health.
Children Self-Help Books
If your child is struggling with anxiety because of a distressing situation such as a separation, a death or moving house, then it might help to buy them books which help them understand what they are feeling. These books are made easy to read, are colourful but are wonderful for children with anxiety.
Show your child how to use deep breathing when anxious. When they are feeling anxious, do three deep, slow breaths.
Go to a Mental Health Professional / Doctor
If anxiety is seriously impacting your child’s everyday life such as school, hanging out with friends or their sleeping, then it may be time to consult a doctor or mental health professional. As a parent you can’t know everything or be everything for your child, so getting extra support and advice is important. Talking to your GP is a great place to begin and they can point you in the right direction.
They may recommend that your child visit a child psychologist or attend counselling which can help your child get to the root of what is causing them anxiety.
Children above the age of 12 years old can sign up for Thought Catcher on Turn2Me.ie so that they have a safe space to share their thoughts and feelings with other young people who are also experiencing anxiety.