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Understanding Child Anxiety

Anxiety is the body’s natural response to stress. Stress is a common reaction we experience in everyday life when tasks, demands, activities or expectations exceed our perceived capacity to be able to manage them. These feelings usually pass however at times can lead to fear, worry or apprehension.

There are varying forms of anxiety – social anxiety, separation anxiety and generalised anxiety.

When children experience excessive, repeated fears and worries that impact day to day activities, they may be experiencing anxiety.

Youthrive Chief Operating Officer Amy Turner says ‘anxiety in children is a normal part of child development. Examples of when a child might feel anxious include when separating from parents, if they have a fear of the dark or when starting a new school year’.

These sensations and experiences are part of growing and learning however sometimes children’s fears and worries can be overwhelming and impact their thoughts, behaviour and participation in everyday activities.

 

Signs and symptoms of anxiety may include:

 

  • Worrying about things a lot of the time
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Tense, fidgety, irritable or angry outbursts
  • Emotional, sad, crying, clingy
  • Complaining of a sore tummy or feeling sick/unwell
  • Seeking reassurance
  • Avoiding people or places e.g. school refusal
  • Perfectionism
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep

Amy says ‘It’s important to talk to your child about their fears and worries and acknowledge that it’s ok to feel anxious at times. There are many things parents can do to help children learn to cope with their feelings’.

 

Ways to positively support your child:

 

  • Gently encourage your child to do the things they are anxious or worried about
  • Provide praise to your child for doing something they typically would feel anxious about
  • Avoid using labels for your child such as ‘anxious’ or ‘shy’, particularly when they can hear
  • Develop practical ideas for managing anxiety with your child e.g. practice daily mindfulness and breathing. Apps such as Smiling Mind have access to a range of tools.

If you are concerned your child may have anxiety and it is impacting their overall health and wellbeing it is best to seek professional help. Amy says ‘talking with your child’s general practitioner or paediatrician about your concerns can be a good place to start. Alternatively make an appointment with a child psychologist’.

 

Our Youthrive clinicians are passionate about supporting children to develop coping skills to manage their anxiety. We can help support:

 

  • Recognising body cues, signs and symptoms of anxiety
  • Developing regulation tools and coping strategies
  • Providing parental education to support and manage anxiety
  • Support with school avoidance and liaison with learning support staff
  • Discuss the importance of healthy sleep routines

Please book online or call our clinics to discuss further.

Authors:

Chief Operating Officer, Amy Tuner.