• Monique Harding

My child has anxiety - HELP!

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety in children can manifest in different ways to adults. Children might described anxiety as having worries or feeling scared. Teenagers may talk about “freaking out” or struggling with stress. Some younger children may struggle to communicate their feelings and anxiety may be expressed through their behaviours. They may be acting out at home or school. You might notice a change in overall temperament that they are unable to explain.

What are the symptoms?

· Restlessness

· Difficulty with sleep

· Difficulty with attention and concentration

· Fear of separation from caregiver

· Withdrawn or shy behaviour

· School refusal

· Increased heart rate

· Difficulty breathing or increased breath rate

· Somatic complaints (chest pain, headaches, abdominal pains, feeling restless in the body)

Support tips for parents

  1. Help provide your child with a narrative of their experience. Communicate with them around worry and anxiety and help them to recognise the symptoms they are experiencing.

  2. Get down on your child’s level and work with them to physically calm them. Try some slow breathing exercises. Let them know that you are there with them to support them through this.

  3. Provide some scaffolding for your child to continue to explore and engage in the things that cause them anxiety. Brainstorm with them around how they can manage any anxiety symptoms that arise in the moment. Be careful not to completely solve the problem for them. Encourage them to find their own ideas of how they can move forward.

  4. Avoid avoiding everything that creates anxiety. Whilst avoidance may assist in the short term it is linked with poor outcomes long term and can actually create increased anxiety about other areas of your child's life that they may not have even been struggling with before. Try to break down tasks into manageable chunks and take a 'baby-step' gradual exposure approach.

  5. Practice your own self-care. Witnessing your child experiencing anxiety can be incredibly distressing. This is not your fault. Research shows that anxiety is often the result of multiple factors. You can help them overcome it.

When to seek help from a mental health professional

  • If the anxiety is impacting on your child participating in things that they want to do or that are healthy for them (friendships, family, school etc

  • If the anxiety symptoms don’t appear to be age appropriate (eg. Separation anxiety in school aged children as opposed to toddlers)

  • If the anxiety is very distressing for your child

  • If you feel that you could benefit from some support and alternative approaches to supporting your child

If you feel that your child may be experiencing any of the above and you feel psychological support would be beneficial you can contact Monique at Ritual Counselling Gold Coast here

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