SUPPORTING A CHILD WITH ANXIETY
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a feeling of worry or fear that is experienced as a combination of physical sensations, thoughts and feelings.
All children and young people feel worried sometimes, and this is a normal part of growing up. At certain points, such as on their first day of school or before an exam, young people may become more worried, but will soon be able to calm down and feel better.
Anxiety can become a problem when a young person feels stuck in it, or when it feels like an overwhelming, distressing or unmanageable experience. If this kind of worrying goes on for a long time, it can leave a young person feeling exhausted and isolated, and limit the things they feel able to do.
If your child is struggling with anxiety, there are things you can do to help them – including providing emotional support, working on practical strategies together and finding the right professional help if they need it.
Most of us worry sometimes – about things like friendships or money – and feel anxious when we’re under stress, like at exam time. But afterwards we usually calm down and feel better.
But when you’re not in a stressful situation, and you still feel worried or panicky, that’s when anxiety can become a problem.
What makes young people anxious?
A young person may feel anxious for a number of different reasons, depending on the individual. If your child is feeling unmanageable amounts of worry and fear, this is often a sign that something in their life isn’t right and they need support to work out what the problem is.
The following kinds of things can make some children and young people feel more anxious:
- experiencing lots of change in a short space of time, such as moving house or school
- having responsibilities that are beyond their age and development, for example caring for other people in their family
- being around someone who is very anxious, such as a parent
- struggling at school, including feeling overwhelmed by work, exams or peer groups
- experiencing family stress around things like housing, money and debt
- going through distressing or traumatic experiences in which they do not feel safe, such as being bullied or witnessing or experiencing abuse.
This video by Braive is a useful way of understanding how stress and anxiety can build up in a person's life.
WHO SHOULD YOU TURN TO FOR MORE HELP?
Family Lives have some great pages on a range of issues
Young Minds is a fantastic website and helpline with a section designed just for parents
NHS provide an extensive list of a variety of places to get specific and general mental health support
Mental Health Org have some great tips for dealing with the everyday and with the more challenging times
Place2Be is another fantastic and friendly service with a wealth of guidance for you and your child