Anxiety in Children - The Hidden Pandemic

We all know how the pandemic has affected all of our mental health but our children have suffered even more. Just like we need to be able to spot the signs of abuse, we need to know what the signs of mental health issues are, to enable us to put in support as soon as possible. In this blog, we will look at some of the signs that a child is suffering from anxiety and ways in which you can help.

The Children’s Society has conducted a study and while we still do not know the exact number of children battling issues like anxiety and depression, here are some statistics about mental health that help tell the story. 

1 in 6 children aged 5-16 years old are likely to have mental health issues. In the last three years, the likelihood of young people having a mental health problem has increased by 50%.

Anxiety can show itself in a variety of ways. This can be changes in their body or being constantly worried. It can even be changes in behaviour, such as becoming overly cautious or avoiding things that worry them.

Possible Symptoms of Anxiety in Children

 

Signs to look out for in your child are:

  • finding it hard to concentrate
  • not sleeping, or waking in the night with bad dreams
  • not eating properly
  • quickly getting angry or irritable, and being out of control during outbursts
  • constantly worrying or having negative thoughts
  • feeling tense and fidgety, or using the toilet often
  • always crying
  • being clingy
  • complaining of tummy aches and feeling unwell

Separation anxiety is common in younger children, whereas older children and teenagers tend to worry more about school or have social anxiety.

How to Support an Anxious Child

It is so important to talk to the child about their anxiety or worries. Reassure and show them you understand how they feel and above all don’t just disregard their concerns as silly. Depending on the child’s age, it might help to explain what anxiety is, how it affects their body and mind and that it will pass.

Once you have talked about their concerns, it is a good idea to help them come up with strategies that could help. For example, if a child is worried about going to a residential, it is natural to want to tell them not to go. However, this could mean your child feels that their anxiety will stop them from doing things. It's better to recognise their anxiety and suggest solutions to help them.

The NHS advises on other ways to support children:

  • teach the child to recognise signs of anxiety in themselves
  • encourage the child to manage their anxiety and ask for help when they need it
  • children of all ages find routines reassuring, so try to stick to regular daily routines where possible
  • if the child is anxious because of distressing events, such as a bereavement or separation, look for books or films that will help them to understand their feelings
  • if you know a change, such as a house move, is coming up, prepare your child by talking to them about what is going to happen and why
  • try not to become overprotective or anxious yourself
  • practice simple relaxation techniques with the child, such as taking 3 deep, slow breaths, breathing in for a count of 3 and out for 3. You'll find more guidance for helping children with anxiety on the Young Minds website
  • distraction can be helpful for young children. For example, if they are anxious about going to nursery, play games on the way there, such as seeing who can spot the most red cards
  • turn an empty tissue box into a "worry" box. Get your child to write about or draw their worries and "post" them into the box. Then you can sort through the box together at the end of the day or week

If a child's anxiety is severe, persists, and interferes with their everyday life, it's a good idea to talk to their parents, explain that a GP might be able to offer more support and explain what other help you are going to put in place.

Additional Resources

There are many other resources that you can access for more support,

Author
Vikkey Chaffe
Head of Community Relations

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