Helping Your Child With Anxiety
If your child is struggling with anxiety, here are some ways you can support them and places you can get help.
How can I help my child?
All children and young people get anxious at times, and this is a normal part of their development as they grow up and develop their ‘survival skills’, so they can face challenges in the wider world. We all have different levels of stress we can cope with – some people are just naturally more anxious than others, and are quicker to get stressed or worried. There are many ways you can help your child to manage their anxiety.
If you feel your child’s anxiety is not getting any better or is getting worse, and your efforts have not worked, contact your GP to get professional support.
These are things that can really make a difference:
- Talk to your child about anxiety, what is happening in their body and why it happens. Many children and young people don’t know what they are feeling when they are anxious, and it can be very frightening and overwhelming. They might even think they are very ill or that they are having a heart attack.
- Help them to recognise anxious feelings so they can tell when they are becoming anxious and can ask for help.
- Tell your child it will be okay, and the anxiety will pass. It can be helpful to describe the anxiety as a wave to ride or surf that gets smaller after it peaks.
- Get your child to breathe deeply and slowly, in through their nose for three counts and out through their mouth for three counts.
- Distract them by focusing on something else.
- Give them a cuddle or hold their hand if they will let you – touch can be soothing.
- It can help to talk to your child about finding a safe place in their mind – somewhere that they feel relaxed and happy. It may be a grandparent’s or friend’s house or a holiday beside the sea which they can picture when ‘wrong thoughts’ come into their head or they are feeling anxious. Sometimes holding a memento, like a seashell or pebble, can help.
- If your child is feeling the need to check things or repeat certain actions, suggest they count up to 10 before they start checking as a delaying tactic. This website has some good ideas.
- Encourage your child to notice what makes them anxious. Talking it through can help but your child could also try keeping a diary or a ‘worry book’.
- Make a ‘worry box’. Your child can write each worry down and post it in the box out of sight. Small children will enjoy decorating the box too. They can leave the worries in there for, say, a week to see if they were worth worrying about (if not they can be torn up). Alternatively, you could designate a specific ‘worry time’ for around 10 or 20 minutes, (but not too close to bedtime, or when the child is in bed), so worries can be saved up for that time. This gives the message that we are in control of their worries and not vice versa.
- Work on positive-thinking. Name their worst case scenarios and think through together how to sort out the situation if it happens, e.g. ‘I’m worried that we’ll miss the bus.’ ‘What do you think we could do if that happens?’ ‘We could get the next bus’.
- Help them maintain a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise to reduce the levels of stress hormones, good sleeping habits, calm bedtime routines, limited screen or computer time in the evening, and a healthy diet.
Where can I get help?
YoungMinds Parents Helpline
- Call us for free 0808 802 5544 (Mon-Fri 9:30 – 16:00).
- Available in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Bury Education Psychology Service
Bury Education Psychology Service has set up a helpline on Mondays between 1pm and 3.30pm and Wednesdays between 9.30am and 12.00 to provide advice and support for schools/parents of children and young people with SEND in the context of the current situation that exists due to the Covid-19 outbreak. Educational Psychologists will be able give advice on issues such as:
- Anxiety, stress and related issues arising from being out of school/returning to school/COVID 19/missing friends etc.
- Loss and bereavement – EPs provide Critical Incident support, but the helpline may identify where this support is needed.
- Transitions – particularly for those children starting reception/year 7.
- Advice on routines/behaviours because of changes to routine.
- Reassurance/advice on academic progress and expectations once children are back to school.
- Advice on EHC needs assessments and annual reviews.
- Any other educational questions or concerns.
Parents/Carers are encouraged to call, no matter how small the question or concern is. The helpline number is 0161 253 6406.
Council Children & Young People’s Inclusion Ambassador
Andy Smith, the Council Children & Young People’s Inclusion Ambassador, runs weekly Zoom meetings on Thursdays and Fridays for SEND young people so they can chat with others and feel a bit less isolated. It is very informal and Andy also streams games onto the screen for everyone to play together. If young people are interested, parents can email Andy at email@example.com (young people over the age of 16 can e-mail Andy direct).
Starline Home Learning Helpline
Starline is a national home learning helpline offering expert advice to parents and carers.
StarLine advisers are qualified teachers and education and parenting experts from schools, trusts and national organisations. They work in different types of schools, in different towns and cities and have different subject specialisms. They all understand the challenges of home learning and want to help parents support their children’s learning. Their lines are open 5 days a week.