Anxious kids…how can parents help?

By Senior Psychologist Kim McGregor

In my last article, I covered how to talk to your child about anxiety. Maybe since then some of you have given it a go, but what’s next? Now that they understand it better, it’s time to help your child find ways to manage that anxiety in a healthy, adaptive way.

Practical supports parents can use to assist with managing anxiety in children can include:

  • Increasing activities that encourage distraction, relaxation or achievement
    • Label feelings – scared, sad, angry, happy, worried
    • Understand and notice escalation patterns – body cues and signals for low, moderate or high levels of distress
    • Model and teach skills to calm
    • Have a list of calming activities for your child when upset
  • Increasing activities that require physical energy to burn up anxiety and stress

Some learning techniques parents can implement to encourage brave behaviours in their children include:

  • Talking and listening to your child to support and understand their fears and how their fears affect them
  • Modelling appropriate ways of dealing with worries and fear for your child
  • Paying attention to brave behaviours and improvement in behaviour rather than anxious behaviour
  • Giving clear, concrete and specific praise at appropriate attempts at coping and brave behaviours
  • Rewarding brave behaviours for their effort in achieving something for their own benefit
  • Showing interest in activities your child enjoys with affection
  • Independence overcomes anxiety – provide and support opportunities TO SUCCEED

Here are some books and websites that can help:

My feelings books by Trace Moroney

Helping your anxious child – A step by step guide for parents by R M Rapee, A Wignall and S H Spence

Triple P – More confident kids (0-12 years) who can cope with challenges – free online parenting course

Kids helpline website – Anxiety in kids parents can read though with them

Beyond blue website – strategies for parents to help and support anxious children 

Kim McGregor is a registered Psychologist with a Master’s degree in Educational & Developmental Psychology. She has worked extensively with infants, children and their families in not for profit, early childhood, specialised school and government multidisciplinary settings providing assessment, diagnosis and treatment for their developmental, cognitive, social, emotional and learning needs.

While Kim enjoys working with and celebrating all children as they grow and develop, her experience and interests include understanding the specific strengths, abilities and support needs of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, developmental delay, intellectual disability and learning disabilities to reach their full potential through comprehensive assessment.  

Her goal is to always work from a person centred and family focused partnership with parents providing clear communication, empathy and support throughout the journey of understanding and helping their child.  She incorporates evidence based therapies to support skill development, having trained in CBT programs such as The Cool Kids Anxiety program (Cool Kids) and the Secret Agent Society program (SAS) and in Positive Behaviour Support (PBS).

While Kim has spent most of her life in Sydney, she now enjoys all that Melbourne has to offer with her family and pets. 

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