Practical Ways to Support Your Anxious Child

anxious child 1

Reading time: 3 minutes

Suitable for: Families of secondary-age children

Are you worried that your child has a lot of anxious feelings, or seems worried, a lot of the time? Everyone feels worried or anxious at points in their life. Normally, there’s a specific reason behind it.

Your child may be worried about how a struggle with school work, moving schools, or coping with a significant change in their life. Children can also become anxious if they have a traumatic experience

Signs of feeling anxious include:

mum and childsren spending time together outdoors

Some children are naturally more anxious than others. Anxiety becomes a problem if it affects your child’s wellbeing.

For example, you’d expect your child to feel anxious before they take an exam. It’s healthy for them to learn how to deal with these feelings.

But, it’s a problem if their anxiety about exams affects their sleep, overall health, or stops them from going to school. Specialist medical professionals can make a diagnosis of anxiety.

Helping your child with anxious feelings

Talk to your child about what you’ve noticed. Show them you understand how they’re feeling. Stay calm and try not to reveal how worried you feel, as this can increase their anxiety.

It’s tempting to shelter your child when they’re worried about something. You might avoid situations when they feel anxious or try to solve a problem for them. But children need to experience anxiety and learn how to overcome it with your support.

Instead of removing the problem, be encouraging and focus on how they are dealing with it. You might say, “I know you were feeling anxious about the exam today, and I’m so proud of the way you went in with confidence this morning.”

The Impact of COVID-19

Many children feel particularly anxious because of COVID-19. Reframing the conversation is a great way to focus on the positives rather than dwelling on problems.

This video about reframing shows you how it’s done:

Modelling how to manage anxious feelings

Children learn from looking at us. We can model ways to cope with the anxieties we face in our own lives.

Concentrate on how you overcame a problem or worry you were having, rather than focusing on the feeling of anxiety. Let your child see they can get through anxious times too. 

For example, you might say, “I had to give a big talk at work and I felt anxious about it. But I did some deep breathing before I started and I tried my best. It went really well, and I was proud of myself.”

Show them it’s natural and normal to feel anxious during stressful times and we can overcome that feeling.

Worries around change

Many children feel anxious when there are unexpected changes in their usual routine. Using a calendar or daily planner can help reduce any surprises, such as who’s picking them up from school, where they’re going at the weekend, and how long until the school holidays. 

Sometimes, sudden changes are unavoidable. Praise your child for how well they coped with the surprise. Ask them how they managed the feelings of anxiety during this time and show them how proud you feel of them.

When you know there are big changes ahead, like a new sibling, changing house, or starting a job, start talking to your child before the change happens. It may take them some time to get used to the idea.

Further help

If anxiety is affecting your child’s home or school life, or you’re worried about their overall wellbeing, speak with your GP about your concerns. The Young Minds website also has excellent support for parents about anxiety

What next?

For expert support and advice about your child’s behaviour, we run regular webinars and parenting classes. Browse our upcoming events.

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