Children, despite being carefree and unburdened by the worries of daily life, are not immune to bouts and episodes of anxiety and it’s important for parents to be aware of the effects of this on their physical, emotional and mental wellbeing.
Certain things in a child’s life can be immensely stressful and difficult to cope with. These include loss, serious illness, death of a loved one, bullying, and violence or abuse, all of which can lead to extreme anxiety in children.
Exam time is also usually a heightened time of stress and comes on the back of the Covid-19 pandemic which affected many households – some severely in terms of loss of employment and income – and children would also have felt and noticed the effect of this.
If you have a child whom you think may suffer from a form of anxiety, including panic attacks, here is a list of things parents can do to intervene in the situation:
1. Parents can explain to children what anxiety is to help them recognise it and understand what is happening;
2. Introduce calming techniques and mindfulness: such as give a slow breathing task, or try some yoga techniques;
3. Physical reassurance – ask if you can give them a hug or hold their hand;
4. Visualisation – ask them to remember a time when they overcame anxiety previously;
5. Recognise even the smallest efforts and build the child’s confidence to ‘have a go’;
6. Do something fun together to give the child a break from their worries;
7. Try to not fix everything – children need to learn how to cope and overcome challenges;
8. Help the child write or draw a checklist of anxiety-busting strategies;
9. Verbal action – tell the worry to ‘go away’;
10. Visualisation – ask the child to draw what it will look like when they have overcome their anxiety-inducing situations; and
11. Model your own techniques – show or explain what you choose to do when you feel anxious
These hints are found in the book: “How big are your worries, little bear?“