43. Strategies to support anxious children

Children can develop anxiety for a variety of reasons. As a parent, it can be hard to know how best to support them.

It is important not to become overprotective when children are anxious, otherwise they may not not try to overcome their issues.  Equally, parents need to not be too forceful either, children need to feel they can take small steps to improve their wellbeing. As a parent, we need to work with our children and support them to plan how to overcome the barriers their anxiety causes.

If children are facing something that makes them feel anxious, either breathing exercises or mindfulness can help reduce the anxiety. These approaches need to be practised a few times before the child is anxious if it is to be effective. Mindfulness especially needs to be used regularly for it to be beneficial.

Alternatively, you can use positive distractions when a child is anxious. The key thing with positive distraction is it needs to engage the child’s brain to be effective. Positive distractions could be reciting the alphabet backwards, or a memory game for example. While the distraction doesn’t fix the anxiety it can help children manage in stressful situations.

Challenge catastrophic thinking, and encourage positive thinking.  As a parent you might need to give examples of how things could go well and or give examples of how things have gone well in the past and challenges phrases like “It always happen to me”.

Finally, another good option to support children is an anxiety workbook – that a child can complete at their own pace. Alternatively keeping a journal or a diary can help children make sense of their thoughts.

If you are concerned that your child’s anxiety is impacting their day-to-day life, speak to your child’s school. It will help them and you, to have school support or they can signpost to other organisations who can give other advice and support.