CHILDREN’S MENTAL HEALTH: How to help your child deal with worries and anxiety

We understand that children need physical education and but what about helping a child’s mental health such as how to deal with worries and anxiety? 

As someone who has had mental health problems since I was at school and now being a mum myself and running Yorkshire Families (which aims to get all families exploring Yorkshire regardless of barriers such as mental health problems), I understand the importance of supporting young people and preventing more mental health issues in the future and enabling them to have the ‘best’ start possible. 

I recently went to a workshop on “How to help your child overcome worries and anxiety” by South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Trust. 

Here are the tips on helping a child with worries and anxiety… 

 

  • Ask your child what they are worried about when you notice they are worried or soon after. Don’t assume you know what is worrying them. Use open questions such as what, when and why?
  • Try to encourage the child to think of solutions to their worry. Ask things like ‘Has that ever happened before?’ Has it happened to someone else? How likely is it that this will happen? If this does happen could there be other reasons for it? Ask if (event) happened to a friend what do they think the friend would do?
  • For children who find it difficult to verbalise their worries encourage them to write or draw their worry. Make a worry box or monster to put the worries in. Go through the worries with the child at a set time each day, not too near to bed time. This limits the amount of time a child worries each day as they know they will have set time to talk and think about their worries.
  • If children find it difficult to recognise anxiety draw a body outline and encourage them to draw physical feelings i.e. butterflies in stomach, shaky legs, you can draw your own physical feelings on a body outline.
  • Some younger children like to draw their worries and tear them up or make them into comical characters. For older children encourage them to write feelings and emotions down in a journal.
  • Encourage children to ‘have a go’ at something they are worried about, give praise if they achieve even a small part of their worry. Set child doable goals using visual pictures, make small steps they can achieve to reach their goals, expect setbacks.
  • Make sure your child can identify activities, places and people they can talk to which help to make them feel relaxed.
  • Teach them simple breathing and distraction techniques e.g. counting rectangles in a room, use a rectangle to slow breathing down i.e. breath in for a count of 2, pause, breath out for 3, pause and repeat.
  • Make sure child can identify someone at home and at school who they can talk to.  
  • Use positive self- talk, children learn from example, encourage them to use phrases like ‘I can do this, I am good at…, I like myself because….

 

To recap: 

ASK open questions (don’t assume)

ENCOURAGE THEM TO SPEAK, WRITE OR DRAW their worries 

CREATE a worry box or monster to put their worries in 

SET SMALL GOALS to overcome their worry 

BREATHE mindfulness and distraction techniques 

USE POSITIVE SELF-TALK Children learn from example 

SUPPORT Make sure a child has someone at home and/or school to talk to 

 

 

Some useful books and resources on helping a Child with worries or anxiety:

‘What to do when you worry too much’ by Dawn Huebner

‘Little Miss Shy’ Roger Hargreaves

Overcoming Your Child’s Fear and Worries, Cathy Creswell and Lucy Willetts.

Websites:

Childline

Anxiety-Young Minds http://www.youngminds.org.uk

Anxiety in Children NHS.UK

Mind https://www.mind.org.uk/…/anxiety-and-panic-attacks

Older children and young people:

Moodjuice self- help resources http://www.moodjuice

Kooth online counselling http://www.kooth.com

Young minds

There are many apps and meditation websites that help children build up a ‘tool box’ of coping strategies to help then deal with situations they find stressful.

e.g. Headspace

 

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