Many of us are familiar with the rapid heartbeat and fluttering stomach butterflies that anxiety gives us, often at what feels like the most inconvenient times. Although anxiety can be unsettling, it is our bodies natural response to stress, danger or pressure and is a valuable safety mechanism.
Often anxiety comes and goes however, when anxious feelings persist after a stressful event or situation has passed, this can be a sign of an anxiety condition. A recent meta-analysis from the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry (Strawn et al., 2020) identified anxiety disorders as amongst the first to emerge in the critical developmental periods during childhood and adolescence, where approximately 10% of youth receive a diagnosis before the age of 18.
In children and teenagers, anxiety might look like constant tension and restlessness, somatic symptoms like persistent stomach aches, avoidance behaviours, social withdrawal, difficulty sleeping and concentrating.
We understanding that as parents, this can be really challenging to go through with your child. Often, we seek to protect our children by anticipating and avoiding their fears or removing triggers, which can be counter-productive to ending the cycle of anxiety.
At Standing Strong, we seek to empower parents and children with the tools to manage moderate anxiety and support anxious children to build confidence and self-belief. Below are some of our top tips that you can share with your child to work through anxiety together.
Our top tips to work through anxiety:
- Relaxation and mindfulness
Ensuring your child takes the time to do things that make them feel happy and cared for are important. Activities you can either do with your child or encourage them to do alone include painting, writing, listening to music, art, cooking, meditation, breathing exercises and self-care.
- Getting enough sleep
Sleep has a huge impact on our anxiety levels. Including relaxing music or meditations before bed can help your child learn to prioritise sleep through a healthy sleep routine.
- Nutrition and exercise
We really do feel our best when we move our bodies and eat nourishing food. If your child/children are experiencing anxiety, try regular walks together. While you’re out on your walk, talk about how your child is feeling. This provides a great opportunity to offer a different perspective, remind them how strong and capable they are and that it’s important to recognise and work through our feelings.
- Connection with others
Spending time with the people we love is so important, particularly when we are feeling anxious. Try to encourage your child to talk about how they are feeling, reassure them that they are not alone and be mindful of behaviours such as social withdrawal.
- Time in nature
How often do you take your shoes off and feel the ground under your feet? Try to encourage your child to walk with you barefoot on grass, at the beach or go for a bush, or park walk together.
Anxiety can often leave children and teens feeling alone and isolated, which can fuel the cycle of anxious thinking. It’s important that children and teens feel supported and know they have loved ones to connect with. Our tips can provide a great starting point to establish that connection and the skills needed to manage anxiety.
If you need more support, our online platform STRONG provides a community for children, teens and parents as well as resources to build emotional wellbeing and an empowerment mindset. You can also visit our locations page to find a Standing Strong club near you!
If you feel your child may be struggling with more severe anxiety or an anxiety disorder, we encourage that you seek help from your GP about options for psychological therapies such as cognitive behaviour therapy or counselling.
Author: Elizabeth Evans & Kim Smith