Anxiety problems in children are very common, probably more so than other better-known behavioural problems like conduct disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. But how can we help children who suffer from anxiety?
Anxiety and fears in children are often obvious from an early age. Children from age five can present with phobias, obsessive-compulsive problems, social fears and shyness, or separation anxiety.
Anxious children usually fear particular things (for example, strangers or separation). They will talk about their fears and will avoid the situations or activities that they fear. It’s a common misconception that talking with your child about their anxiety will make it worse. Some parents may feel like talking about their fears or focusing on them will exacerbate them, but it can be really helpful in allowing your child to better understanding the symptoms and how to manage them. So, what can parents do to help children who are experiencing anxiety?
- Ask your child about their fears and talk openly and honestly about them.
- Listen to what they have to say and observe their behaviour.
Tip: Telling your child “not to worry” is generally ineffective. Think about how this makes you feel when you are worried or anxious.
- Teach them about anxiety. Tell them it is normal to experience anxiety. It may help to relate to your child’s anxiety with feelings you may have experienced when you were the same age.
- Discuss the feelings and physical symptoms that arise when your child is feeling anxious. Helping your child to recognise the symptoms will go a long way in helping manage them.
The main thing to consider is “Is my child’s anxiety interfering with his or her life?” If the answer is “yes” then it is worth doing something about it.
But what can be done for anxious kids? The answer is that teaching kids practical skills through cognitive behavioural therapy goes a long way to helping them manage their own anxiety.
At Psychology Consultants, children can learn how to identify their anxiety, how to manage the physical symptoms of anxiety, and how to think more realistically. We can also help them expose themselves to their feared situations and reduce their anxiety reaction to those situations.