Signs your child might be experiencing anxiety
Thoughts and feelings
Constantly feeling on edge. Expressing a feeling of dread or a fear of dying. Verbally stating they are worried or do not want to do something. Uncontrollable overthinking. Wanting to escape a situation.
Avoidance, list-making, checking things over and over again, withdrawal, scratching/biting nails, blotchy rash, fidgeting/pacing, angry outbursts, emotionally fuelled behaviour, seeking reassurance, needing to be with certain people, frequent use of the toilet, rituals, panic attacks. Hypervigilant. Clingy to parents/caregivers. Find it difficult to do things when others are watching. Difficulty concentrating.
Problems with sleep, lack of appetite, sweating, dry mouth, heart palpitations, hot flushes, heavy and fast breathing, shaking, hair loss, dizziness, fainting, stomach ache and sickness.
Ways you can support your child/young person experiencing anxiety
Things young people say help with their anxiety are:
- Writing their thoughts down on paper or in a “worry diary”.
- Listening to their favourite music (this is also a good resilience factor)
- Getting a hug from someone they trust, offering calm physical reassurance.
- “A scrap box’’ – put all of their thoughts and feelings on post-it notes and rip them all up and bin them at the end of the week/month.
- Distraction – reading a book, going for a walk, colouring in.
- Reading positive quotes online
- Reassure them that the anxiety will pass and that they will be okay.
- Positive self-talk and saying nice things to themselves in front of the mirror
- Physical sensations such as smells of lavender or a comfort teddy.
- Being creative and doodling
- Having a quiet, safe space
- Spending time with people and socialising
- Ask them to think of a safe and relaxing place or person in their mind.
- Breathe exercises that can be done together. You can count slowly to five as you breathe in and then five as you breathe out. If this is too much, try starting with shorter counts.
- If it works for them, gradually encourage your child to breathe out for one or two counts longer than they breathe in, as this can help their body relax.
Try using all five senses together. Connecting with what they can see, touch, hear, smell, and taste can bring them closer to the present moment and reduce the intensity of their anxiety. You might think together about five things they can see, four things they can touch, three things they can hear, two things they can smell and one thing they can taste.