By Psychologist, Judy McKay
All children experience worries, fears and anxiety to some degree. In fact, some anxiety is shown to be helpful (e.g., protecting us from danger, kickstarting us to study, practice and perform under pressure or to prepare for important events). However, when a child’s worries become persistent, when they start to affect daily functioning and prevent them from doing the things that they enjoy, we might start to have some concerns. Research suggests that anxiety disorders affect between 6-7% of children and adolescents. Below are some simple ways to help children manage their anxiety, by: noticing, normalising and talking about anxiety with them.
- Noticing physical and emotional changes – Things like somatic complaints, changes in confidence, sleep difficulties, appetite changes, more attached to parents and overthinking.
- Labeling and acknowledging their anxiety – For example “that feeling you are describing sounds a little bit like something called anxiety and I completely understand why you might be feeling worried and nervous right now”.
- Normalise what they are feeling – For example “this reminds me of a time when I felt worried (I was ….) (I felt…)”.
- Providing recognition for conquering fears – Noticing when they were really nervous and worried about something but they overcame it and did it anyway.
So if your kiddo seems a bit anxious in recent times, try these four simple steps to start them on the road to identifying and challenging their anxious feelings!
References: Creative Ways to Help Children Manage Anxiety – By Dr Fiona Zandt and Dr Suzanne Barrett.