Anxiety in Children

Hello Everyone – how are you are all coping in ‘lockdown’? I hope your body and mind are working together and with you and not against you. I hope routine is helping you on a daily basis.
I wanted to write an article this week with children in mind – we as parents could be missing some vital initial signs of anxiety. Remember younger children especially won’t know what anxiety is…the feelings they are feeling at the moment could be completely new to them, fear of dying, feeling of the unknown, feelings of lack of routine, no friends and grandparents to see, future fears. It is up to us as adults to instil that this situation will pass, it will end, our lives will go back to normality and we will get through this making us stronger and more resilient as human beings.

We often don’t see how much stress children can experience and how much pressure this lockdown can put them under. Childhood anxiety can develop into a much bigger problem if parents miss the signs and children don’t have the coping strategies and learn how to cope themselves.

Anxiety in general is a form of stress and almost everyone experiences this at some point in their lives. However prolonged intense anxiety that is out of proportion to the present situation can affect any person’s daily life and happiness. Childhood anxiety can take the form of a few different disorders including:

Generalized Anxiety. This is worry, looming sense of dread, physical symptoms such as headaches, stomach ache and tiredness, muscle tension

OCD. Children with compulsive disorders express their anxiety through obsessions and compulsions.

Phobias. Intense fears about certain situations and things, in our current situation this could be future fears,

Panic Attacks. These can happen without any warning. Physical symptoms can be a pounding heart, shortness of breath, dizziness, numbness or tingling feelings.

PTSD. Post traumatic stress disorder stems from a prior traumatic experience and symptoms can include flashbacks, nightmares, fear.

Parents play a vital role in helping their children deal with their anxiety, it is important when dealing with childhood anxiety that it is dealt with in a positive way and not shield them from the anxiety. You can help them identify where their feelings are coming from, help them accept and work through these anxious moments and here are some tips below which I hope will help.

Reassure that they’re loved and they’re safe.

Teach them to do breathing exercises to help them to learn to control breathing, do as a game for example let’s pretend we are blowing up a giant balloon, take a deep breath and now blow it up to the count of 5.

‘Let’s have a little battle cry together’ – this can help overcome the initial fear, get your child moving expressing and then talking

‘If your feelings are a character what would it look like’ – again they can draw this making an abstract feeling more concrete and easier to talk about.

‘Let’s get comfortable’ – until this feeling passes.

‘Let’s talk it out, you are so brave for letting us talk about this so grown up.’

‘Let’s count this out’ – for example how many people are in this room, the number of blue objects. This requires them to concentrate on something else and their trail of thought, which will lessen the feeling of anxiety if you are in a public place.

‘You’re not the only one who feels like this,’ it is important to let your child know that.

‘What’s the worst that can happen.’ Talk this through and ask them what the best scenario would be and also what the most likely scenario would be. This helps the child learn how to think more critically when they’re feeling anxious.

‘I am really proud of you.’ You are letting them know that you are already happy with them discussing openly and trying.

‘This feeling will pass. ‘ Periods of anxiety can feel never ending to children, so reassure this feeling isn’t permanent and relief is coming.

‘Which calming strategy do you want to use this time.’ Letting them know that you are giving them your total support can in itself reduce the anxiety. You are also showing them the tools to use themselves.

‘We will get through this together’ – again you are sharing the feeling of the anxiety.

‘Remember when you made it through…’ – reminding your child about past victories.

‘Help me move this wall’ – physical activities like pushing on a wall can help with releasing tension and physical feelings.

If anyone feels they need any extra help, please contact Changes on 608829557 for a free informal chat. There are so many coping strategies not just for children but adults too. I am a fully qualified Wellbeing Coach, Counsellor, Clinical Hypnotherapist.