ANXIETY MANAGEMENT TIPS FOR CHILDREN

Relaxation:

Can help reduce physical symptoms of anxiety and ‘clear your head’ to problem solve.

These are good to practice regularly when your child is calm. This way they are then prepared to use them when anxious.

  • Slow breathing—expel all air, then 4 sec in through nose, 6 sec out mouth. Repeat several times
  • Progressive muscle relaxation—tense muscle groups (3 sec) then release
  • Mindfulness—bring your attention to the present moment, via senses. Can use apps (e.g. Smiling Mind)

Psychological Strategies:

  • Challenge your thoughts—How we think affects how we feel. Often we over-estimate the danger and underestimate our ability to cope. Some questions to ask yourself:
    • What’s the worst that could happen? – What would I do then?
    • What’s the best that could happen?
    • What’s the most likely thing to happen?
  • Schedule some ‘worry time’ – write down your worries at a regular time each week. If they arise at other times, say to yourself: ‘I’ll deal with that at my worry time’. This can stop worries overtaking your life.
  • Keep a diary of your thoughts and feelings—Being aware of our thoughts helps us challenge their accuracy.
  • Small acts of bravery—face something that makes you anxious. Learn: What you fear isn’t likely to occur and if it does you can handle it.

General Strategies: 

  • Healthy lifestyle – keeping active; eating and sleeping healthily; reducing caffeine intake
  • Be kind to yourself—it’s easy to self-talk negatively (‘Why am I so weak/scared/useless’). You are not your anxiety.

ANXIETY MANAGEMENT TIPS FOR PARENTS

  • Model being calm ourselves—Check-in with our own anxiety (what’s my heart doing now? How’s my breathing?) Think about how you speak, any non-verbal signals and try to avoid showing that you’re worried.
  • Speak empathetically, but firmly to our children—e.g. ‘I can see you’re feeling a bit anxious/worried. How about we take a few breaths [co-regulating] together before we go to school/head to the shops’.
  • Reward Plan—If your child can face their anxiety organise a reward. E.g. If they attend school all week/all day they get _________.
  • Have confidence in your child—’you can do this’, ‘I know it’s a challenge, but you’re pretty tough’.
  • Try to maintain a routine—knowing what’s coming up can lessen anxiety.
  • Practice calming/relaxation strategies with your child—encourage and practice these together when your child is calm. This makes it easier for your child to use when distressed.
  • Calm first before discussing—If your child is getting physical symptoms (rapid breathing, rapid heart, trembling) help them to reduce these before talking too much. Problem solving when calm works best.

NOTE: If you are unsure of any of the strategies listed opposite—consulting with a professional is best.

  • See your GP – This can help rule out medical issues (e.g. IBS). Your GP can organise a mental health care plan if appropriate and refer to a Psychologist.
  • Seeing a Psychologist
    • Private Psychologist (via GP referral)
    • Agency—Headspace, ECU Psychological services
    • Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) – via referral from GP or School Psychologist
  • School Psychologist -can help assess and support anxiety, but cannot provide long-term ongoing therapy.

When the going get tough: Parenting is a very difficult and complex process. It never ends and the rewards are not immediately apparent. Here is what the experts say you should do when the going gets tough.

The good news is, psychologists believe that resilience can be learned. We can practise strategies now that can help us bounce back from adversity when life gets tough. Nelson Mandela once said, ‘The greatest glory in living lies not in never failing, but in rising every time we fall’. Here are some exercises that can help you build resilience to rise after a fall.

Professional Help: if things aren’t improving, early intervention is best.

1. A MINDFUL PAUSE

The next time you start feeling stressed or you just need life to slow down a little bit, try this breathing/mindfulness exercise:

  • Pause and feel your in-breath and out-breath for 10—15 seconds
  • Conclude with a question: Which of my character strengths will I bring forward right now?

Mindfulness and character strengths can be woven together to produce a variety of positive outcomes. Research shows that mindful breathing is calming and can reduce an individuals’ reactivity to repetitive thoughts. A consistent practice of mindful breathing can make it easier to do when faced with challenging situations. Furthermore, the reminder to call forth a character strength helps you remember that you have powerful strengths that can be immediately used.

2. COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS

Expressing gratitude positively correlates with life satisfaction, optimism, longevity, and lower levels of anxiety and depression (Peterson & Seligman, 2004). Take time each night to write down 3 things that you are grateful for from that day. By reminiscing about these positive things you will feel better about your life as a whole and feel more hopeful about the future. In times of stress and turmoil focusing on your blessing can help shift your focus and pull you out of a cycle of recurring negative thoughts.

3. PREPARE FOR A FUTURE CHALLENGE

Name a situation or difficulty that you are likely to face in the near future. This might be having to participate in a school or work meeting that you are worried about. As you imagine what might occur in this situation, take a moment to imagine what character strengths (www.character-strengths/via-classification) you could bring forth to help you. Could you bring forth additional character strengths? Taking time to apply the character strengths ‘language’ can assist you in shifting how you view yourself, others, and your problems. It helps bring balanced perspective to your challenges and focus on the positive ways you can influence an upcoming situation.