A guide for parents and carers
Help them spot the signs of anxiety
Helping your child recognise physical cues can be useful for identifying when anxiety levels may be rising and you may need some coping strategies. At a calm moment ask them what it feels like for them.
For younger ones, you could use a teddy or for older ones you could ask them to write about their feelings, or draw them. This may be particularly helpful for children who are not sure what they are feeling or find it hard to describe.
Give reassurance carefully
Anxious children are likely to seek a great deal of reassurance. It may sound strange, but we can sometimes over-reassure children. This can mean they come to rely on that reassurance to feel better rather than learning to master their own fears and worries.
Instead, look to reassure them that you are there for them and at the same time you believe they are able to manage their emotions themselves rather than always relying on you.
Show you are confident they can cope: “I think you know the answer to this”; “I believe you can do it.”
Notice when they overcome a fear themselves, or with your support. “I notice that you were able to calm your anxiety by using that breathing technique”; “I noticed that you managed to distract yourself with your favourite game, when your sister was making you cross”.
Share a quiet space
Sometimes just being in a quiet, shared space with your anxious child can be the best approach. If your child doesn’t want to talk about what’s creating the anxiety, just sitting with them, saying very little, can be the best thing to do.
When we know something is approaching which might cause us to feel anxious, we can plan for it, break it down into smaller steps, and prepare to manage it better. This is useful for both children and adults.
Reinforce positive behaviour
When your child does overcome a fear, ask what helped them to do it; this can reinforce their positive behaviour. Asking ‘what’ and ‘how’ questions helps this, while avoiding questions that be answered with a simple yes or no.
Validate their emotions
Even when we don’t understand our child’s behaviour or emotional response, it’s important to acknowledge how they are feeling, as that is their reality: “I can understand why you might be feeling worried. When I feel like that I try to…”.
Supporting children returning to school (parents & carers)
Guidance for parents and carers on how to help your child prepare to go back to schoolView resource
Coping with self-harm resource
This guide includes information on the nature and causes of self-harm and how to support a young person for parents and carersView resource
Asking for help
Tips for young people on when it’s time to talk about their mental health, or if they want to help a friendView resource
Wellbeing Action Plan (child)
A simple, resource to help young people keep themselves well and get them through difficult timesView resource
Warning signs poster
A bold A3 poster showing the warning signs that tell you when someone may be depressed. This poster could save a life.View resource
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