Five Ways to Help Your Anxious Child


What is childhood anxiety?

Whilst it is considered normal to experience a level of anxiety at times, there are a number of factors which make more likely that y our child may experience anxiety, such as: their genetics (i.e., if there is a family history of anxiety), their personality type/temperament, environmental influences and exposure to stressors.

Children’s worries tend to focus upon things such as being sick or hurt, being away from caregivers, fear of the dark and ghosts. As children age, worries can change and focus more on their relationships, economics, and social issues.

Anxiety in children can manifest in a different way to adults, children they may describe their anxiety as being worried or scared, and teenagers may describe it as “freaking out” or feeling stressed. It is also common that children are unable to express what they are feeling, and we instead look to their behaviours and expression of emotion as indicators as to how they are feeling.

Symptoms of childhood anxiety

Anxiety activates the “fight or flight” response within our bodies, in response to the brain’s perception of threat and danger (to both our physical and emotional health, whether real or imagined), and stress hormones are released. The releasing of these stress hormones creates a number of the symptoms of anxiety outlined below.

Symptoms of childhood anxiety may include:

• recurrent complaints of illness (e.g., abdominal pain, headaches, general pains)
• increased heart rate and breathing rate
• fear of separation from caregivers
• withdrawn or shy behaviour
• reassurance seeking, perfectionism, school refusal
• difficulties with attention and concentration
• sweating and blushing
• restlessness
• sleeping difficulties.

Five Tips on How Parents/Caregivers Can Help

1. Help your child to acknowledge their fear and recognise the symptoms they are showing. Educate your child that this is a feeling of worry/anxiety.

2. Try to physically calm your child first by completing tasks such as slow breathing, and then assist your child in discussing/problem solving the anxiety provoking situation.

3. Gently encourage your child to engage in the things they are worried about, with some assistance if needed. Allowing your child to avoid the situation, or completely solving it for them, can actually worsen anxiety in the long term.

4. Praise your child for “brave behaviours” when they are able to overcome their anxiety in any way.

5. If you notice that your child’s anxiety is preventing them from participating in things that they want to do (friendships, family life or school), their anxiety reactions are quite severe and distressing, and/or their reactions doesn’t appear to be age appropriate, it might be time to consider seeking help from a professional.

Disclaimer: Content on this website is provided for education and information purposes only and is not intended to replace advise from your doctor or registered health professional. Readers are urged to consult their registered practitioner for diagnosis and treatment for their medical concerns.

Blog written by CBT Professionals Clinical Psychologist on the Gold Coast, Melissa Reardon. CBT Professionals are a team of clinical psychologists on the Gold Coast with offices in Coomera and Nerang. Gold Coast CBT psychologists offer services to adults, children, and couples. Please call and make an appointment on 56 683 490.

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