What Is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a feeling of worry, fear, panic or general unease. For the majority of the time, is a normal human feeling. It is an inbuilt alarm system which alerts us to potential dangers, allowing us to deal with everyday challenges and keeps us safe. Anxiety can range from mild or severe and is one of the most common mental health concerns for children. When we are not in a stressful situation but are still experiencing worry, panic or unease, anxiety can become unhelpful and impact many areas of our lives. In fact, when our threat system becomes over sensitive and we experience too much anxiety it can become a problem. For me it was not only having an impact on my life but to my whole families. I share my realisation in a personal vlog which I hope can help others relate to and realise they are not alone.
How Children May Express Anxiety
All children are different and they may express anxiety in various ways. The common anxiety symptoms may be increased heart rate, shortness of breath or feelings of panic. Children may also express anxiety through other ways such as:
- Distress & anger
- Finding it hard to concentrate and focus
- Difficulty sleeping
- Unhealthy eating habits
- Physical pain which cannot be explained
- Loss of interest in hobbies they usually enjoy
- Unhealthy coping strategies such as self harm.
For more information about anxiety disorders visit Mayo Clinic Diseases & Conditions.
What Can We Do To Help Children with Anxiety?
There are many strategies and approaches that we can use to help children manage or even prevent anxiety. Here are a few strategies and tools which have worked well for my family and families I have worked with.
Modelling How To Cope and Manage Our Own Anxiety
Being a parents is one of the most rewarding experiences. It comes with huge challenges and the biggest roller coasters! I have always been very conscious and aware of learnt behaviour. I try my best to model good behaviour, values and morals. What I have struggled to manage is my hidden anxiety. On the outside no one would ever know that anxiety is something I have been dealing with since childhood. I am even guilty of avoiding the subject if the topic arises around friends and family.
Children are intuitive. When my eldest son was around 3 years old I realised that my anxiety was having a significant impact on my family. Since then I have seen a counsellor and continue to use tools to manage my anxiety, in order to help my children.
As well as receiving professional help, I had to make behavioural changes specific to my anxiety such as reducing my caffeine intake and incorporating movement, nature, hobbies, meditation and breathwork into my daily routine. I now share these tools with my children, as well as many other children by teaching them therapeutic practices which I share on our FREE Wellbeing Membership. Click here for my personal vlog.
Communication & Connection
Staying connected to our children is vital. As parents we know our children best but it is easy to get distracted with other expectations and responsibilities. Ensure you are spending quality time with your child; talk openly, honestly and regularly, and listen. As a parent of a child with high levels of anxiety we often talk about worries and how we can manage them. We talk about strategies that work and ideas of how we can deal with challenging situations.
Have clear expectations within your home, make sure they are clear and consistent. They are important when managing anxiety.
Using positive language helps and discussing alternative perspectives. I love using stories to highlight the power of mindset and how we can look at situations differently. Here are a few stories we love:
- Be Brave Little Penguin by Giles Andreae
- The Lion Inside by Rachel Bright
- My Strong Mindset collection by Niels van Hove
- My Superpower collection by Alicia Ortego
Movement and Therapeutic Activities for Calm and Flow
Therapeutic exercises are part of our daily routine. I always prioritise movement, breathwork, creative opportunities and meditation, it was essential for this to become our ‘norm’. I believe everyone can learn the art of breathing, have the opportunity to express ourselves creatively , practice meditation and movement (which happens quite naturally with children, especially when taking this outdoors into nature). It is our job to ensure we make time for this. There is growing research to support the positive impact each of the practices have on our mental and physical health.
I wish I had known about these tools when I was growing up and when I became a mother. As health challenges and epidemic are on the rise, it becomes more difficult for children to navigate the world. I believe in these tools to help children deal with the challenges they may have to face on their journey. I have created a Wellbeing Library everyone can access for FREE to support families with creative ways to incorporate these practices into their daily routines too. I hope it will help others the way it has helped my family and many other families I have worked with.
Sending lots of love from my family to yours,