Starting at a new school can be exciting but anxiety provoking for both children and adults.
What to do if your child is anxiou
First and foremost, it’s important to talk to your child about their anxiety or worries. Reassure them and show them you understand how they feel. If your child is old enough, it may help to explain what anxiety is and the physical effects it has on our bodies. It may be helpful to describe anxiety as being like a wave that builds up and then ebbs away again.
As well as talking to your child about their worries and anxieties, it’s important to help them find solutions, says Professor Stallard. “No one likes to see their child anxious and the tendency is to say, if you’re worried about that sleepover, don’t go. But what you’re doing is saying, if you get anxious about something, it means you can’t do it. “It’s more helpful to say,’ I hear that you’re worried about this. What can you do that’s going to help?’,” says Professor Stallard. “Focus on exploring solutions with your child, instead of just rehearsing their worries and talking about all the things that could go wrong. Acknowledge your child’s worries, but then help them plan ways to cope with them.”
With younger children you can work together to develop these skills and strategies. “For example, you could say, ‘I’ll take you to the party, knock on the door and talk to the mum or dad, then you can give your friend their present’,” says Professor Stallard. “But as children get older they have to learn these skills and strategies themselves. People can’t be there to sort them out all the time.”
Other ways to ease anxiety in children
- Children of all ages find regular routines reassuring so, if your child is feeling anxious, try to stick to regular daily routines where possible.
- Teach your child to recognise signs of anxiety in themselves and to ask for help when it strikes.
- If you know a change, such as a house move is coming up, prepare your child by talking to them about what is going to happen and why.
- Try not to become anxious yourself or overprotective – rather than doing things for your child or helping them to avoid anxiety provoking situations, encourage your child to find ways to manage them.
- Practice simple relaxation techniques with your child, such as taking three deep, slow breaths, breathing in for a count of three and out for three. You’ll find more relaxation techniques for children on the Moodcafe website.
- Distraction can be helpful for young children. For example, if they are anxious about going to nursery, play games on the way there, such as seeing who can spot the most red cars. “This is a way of focusing attention away from internal anxiety cues and worries to external, more neutral anxiety-reducing things,” says Professor Stallard.
- Get your child to write down or draw their worries and post them into a worry box. Then you can sort through the box together at the end of the day or week. *
*[Unattributed]: Citing Sources: [http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/pages/anxiety-in-children.aspx]: para. 4 and 5: [Sept 6, 2016]