Help children overcome anxiety

Our children are growing up in a busier and more stimulating world than the one we grew up in and consequently they face higher levels of stress and anxiety.

They are busy being exposed to increasing technology in the form of television, phones, tablets and computers and have little time to get bored and use their imaginations. Boredom or quiet time is important to allow our minds to process everything that is happening to us, to allow free thinking and creativity. When there is too much going on in a child’s life, they become increasingly unable to cope and may start to experience stress and anxiety. This exhibits itself in a variety of ways from physical symptoms of tummy ache or sickness to more psychological e ects impacting a child’s thoughts, feelings and behaviour.

When a child shows signs of stress, identifying aspects of their life which can be modi ed and made simpler is helpful. Sometimes there will be situations out of anyone’s control in which case providing children with tools to use, helps to give them a sense of control, allows mental space, and provides a calmer and more relaxed individual.

As well as ensuring a child has basic needs met with respect to diet, sleep and exercise, there are simple mindfulness techniques children can use to help them cope when feeling under pressure.

By teaching children to focus on their breathing, slowing it down, breathing more deeply and breathing out their worries, will relax them and help them to feel calmer.

Becoming aware of their surroundings, noticing what they can see, hear, smell, feel and taste helps to distract them and allows them to get distance from thoughts or feelings of stress. Gratitude has well recognised bene ts and by prompting a child to name ten things on their ngers that they are grateful for, enables them to stop, think and become calmer.

Writing is useful to offload worries. For some children writing concerns down in a notebook or posting into a worry box with a dedicated time to discuss helps, whereas for others, journaling a good deed or writing about something that went well that day will help them feel good about themselves.

By offering these strategies to children, they have a choice to nd what helps them best and so gives them tools to use on a daily basis.

Dr Caroline Houlihan-Burne

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