Childhood is supposed to be a time for fun, not worry.
But an alarming number of our kids are feeling anxious.
In fact, the Young Minds Matter survey
conducted by researchers at the Telethon Kids Institute
found one in 14 Aussie kids
has an anxiety disorder.
There are lots of common causes of anxiety in kids
and lots of different reasons why children will worry
and that will also differ by their age.
So, for example, separation anxiety
is a normal developmental stage
that happens for all babies at around
six months of age and that's totally normal.
For little kids, common worries are things like
loud noises, the dark, being separated from mum and dad
strangers, animals like dogs, monsters, that kind of thing.
And then as kids get older their worries change.
They might start worrying more about fitting in with friends.
Being accepted at school and amongst their peers.
Performing at school, performing at sports, or music,
or whatever it is they do in their spare time.
But how do I know when to worry
about my child's level of worry?
When it's getting in the way of normal everyday activities,
so for example if I get a bee sting on my hand
I might feel a bit nervous the next time I see a bee
and that's a completely normal common reaction that we'd all have.
But if my worries get to the extent where, say,
I don't want to go the park to play with
my friends anymore because there might be a bee there,
or I'm too nervous to leave the house in case there's a bee outside
that's when we start to think okay
I might need to enlist some extra help here.
And Jessica has three main tips to
help you manage your child's anxiety.
ONE: Talk about it
Talking about what anxiety is,
what that might be like for your child
and working out what their triggers are
so it might be working out
where in their body they feel anxiety.
A sore tummy today or a racing heart.
Or if you notice your child's looking anxious
talking about what thoughts they might be having,
so, what's making you hide today
and then talking that through.
The goal is not to get rid of anxiety,
that's unrealistic, all children will be anxious.
It's to help your child understand
that they can tolerate and manage
the distress associated with anxiety,
so that anxiety itself doesn't become a scary thing.
TWO: Model healthy behaviour
So if you're feeling stressed say,
"Look mum's feeling a bit stressed at the moment"
and talk about how you're getting through that, so
"I'm going to take a few big deep breaths
I'm going to think about what the problem is
and what possible solutions there might be,
and then I'm going to feel better once the worry passes."
THREE: Validate their feelings
So for example, your child might be feeling really worried about a math test.
You might say "Course you're you're feeling worried,
math tests are a bit scary aren't they?"
and then you help them to confront that fear
and say okay, you can take a few deep breaths,
you can tense and relax your muscles, you can
practice some maths at home so you feel prepared for tomorrow
and then you help them to confront their fear
so that they know that they can deal with this anxiety
and that it's going to be okay.
If you still have concerns...
If a parent is really worried about their child's levels of anxiety
and they think they are getting to a point where they're getting
in the way of their child living out their everyday life,
there are definitely lots of places to seek help.
First port of call could be their GP, and they can
help you get in touch with community services
or private services like clinical psychologists
who can help your child talk through their worries
with things like cognitive behavior therapy.