No one ever tells you how hard it is going to be being a parent. Well, they do but do you listen? No! You think, ‘ah well, you’re not me and I’m going to parent this way, so I’ll be ok!’

You have your baby and although it is one of the most memorable and exciting moments in your life you get this sense of dread and joy mixed into one (I call this feeling Droy! Yep… I like to put a name to my feelings as it helps me identify them when they’re in full force!)

You blink and before you know it they’re at school, university or leaving home and becoming into what you think should be an independent little being and along comes the worry again…

Will they be ok?

What if someone upsets them?

What if they upset someone?

What if they feel scared?

What if they can’t do something and feel like a failure?

You try your best not to let your worries rub off onto them and you hide your moments of fear when you’re around them then, WHAM!!!!!

They start to show signs of:

Yep! ANXIETY has hit them!

Now we are in the 2020s (and post COVID)… so if you have managed to live your life without feeling anxious at some point then you’re pretty lucky. But, as a parent, this doesn’t make it any easier and you now live with questions about how you handle this anxiety gremlin that lives in your child’s head.

Do you try to ignore it, hoping it will go away on its own? Talk to them about it but not sure exactly what to say? Do you go to the doctors or seek professional help from a certified therapist?

Of course, I would never recommend ignoring it, as this can lead to your child feeling isolated and other unhealthy behaviours then developing. As a Mum myself, I know this can feel like your biggest nightmare and you’d do anything just to see your child find that happiness you know they deserve. And as a therapist, I’d absolutely recommend seeking therapy for them as it is a very effective way to help teach them healthy ways to cope with their worries and emotions – which they can continue to use later in life too! (And who wouldn’t love to be equipped with that skill set at such a young age?)

How to Deal with Your Child’s Anxiety

So how do you deal with this as a parent and get your child back into that mentally healthy place? First, I think we have to be realistic and accept that mental health is something we have to look after constantly and not just when we, or our child, are struggling!

Staying on top of our mental wellbeing helps us and our children manage and deal with all those uncertainties and difficult times we’re bound to face at some point in our lives. After all, we don’t live in a Disney movie…(I’ll let you break that one to your kids!). Whilst I would always recommend therapy, I totally understand that sometimes this isn’t an option for some people and ways to cope with anxiety will be different for everyone.

So I have listed below some tips and ideas you could try with your child to help them understand themselves more and reduce their anxiety in cases where therapy isn’t an option. This is not designed to be a comprehensive list but more of my top tips on what I practise in some of my sessions with clients.

Talk to Your Child

Talk to your child about other feelings and encourage them to write these down. You’ll be surprised at how many children (and adults) I see that aren’t sure how to describe their feelings and emotions, and are not sure even who to go to when they are feeling certain feelings. We like to think our children will openly confide in us but when we feel anxious, we tend to isolate ourselves and go into protection mode and keep the feelings to ourselves. Add not being able to describe how we feel into the mix and you’re left with total confusion.

Constantly being open with your child about what emotions feel like can help them identify and label them when certain thoughts and feelings do come up. Talking about your own feelings with your child can also help them realise that emotions are part of human design and they are normal to have. After all, they look up to you as their role model so seeing how open you are about your thoughts and feelings will help them learn to do this too.

An example of an exercise you could try is to get your child to list all the feelings on one side of a piece of paper and on the opposite side get them to write when they have this feeling.

I feel brave when_______________________________

I feel happy when_______________________________

I feel sad when_________________________________

Focus on Positive Thoughts & Activities

Encourage them to focus on positive thoughts and activities they can do to stop the worrying thoughts. Anxiety is created by negative thinking. Getting them to focus on positive thoughts and teaching them to be optimistic in all situations, not only decreases cortisol levels and produces serotonin, which creates a feeling of well-being, calmness and happiness, but it also helps with stress management in general and will teach them to look for possible solutions when the going gets tough later in life… and who doesn’t want to equip their child with this type of powerful tool?!

Practise Mindfulness and Other Calming Techniques

When we think of meditation and mindfulness, we think of someone sitting in a lotus position repeating a mantra but it’s come a long way since people in the western world were introduced to this type of practice. Teaching children to stay still and focus on their breathing or even counting is a form of meditation and even just a few minutes of practising this a day has been proven to have amazing benefits.

You could start by just introducing one minute of mindfulness a day and increasing it gradually, so there’s no excuse for those who say ‘I don’t have time!’. A really good introduction to this is to ask your child to set a positive intention, or think of something they are grateful for and to repeat this mindfully for one minute. You can build up and find lots more meditations on YouTube or even buy some great books where you can read some lovely meditations to your child.

Another thing you could try is some visualisation. Children have an amazing imagination, it’s partly why they can get lost in all sorts of fears and thoughts – so why not teach them to use it to their advantage? You could ask them to close their eyes and picture their most perfect day. Ask them to talk it through to you, with their eyes closed. What does it look like, what does it feel like, smell like, what are they doing? Who is with them etc.

You’ll be surprised at just how creative they can be and try this yourself too. Visualisations allow the mind to focus on positive outcomes which of course relaxes the mind and stops the worries.

Make a Worry Box

Make a worry box or self-care box they can get out when they are in the depths of their anxiety. Worry boxes are containers in which children can post their anxious thoughts in. These are effective as it gives the child a way of getting rid of their anxious thoughts and worries. By seeing them go into the box, they feel like their worry has gone – this is the power of the mind!

You can buy these from places like Amazon or you could let your child make their own. An old shoe box with a rectangle piece cut out of the top where the worries go into is all you need, and they can design it to look as pretty or nasty as they like…personalise as they see fit!

Another thing you could get your child to do is to make a self-care box. Self-care boxes, again, can be just a shoe box that your child has personalised to look really comforting and nice. You then fill it with all sorts of nice things that they find comforting. When they are feeling worried, low or anxious they can go to their self-care box and pull something out that instantly cheers them up.

Ideas to put in the self-care box could be a favourite photograph of someone they love or that makes them think of a special memory; some fidget toys that will occupy them, a favourite small toy, pens/paper so they can get creative, some positive quotes… the ideas are endless!

Stick to a Daily Routine

I absolutely understand that it isn’t always possible to stick to a rigid routine and that life throws us curveballs, but talking the daily routine through with your child, especially if they are prone to anxiety, is really useful. Having a daily routine or being prepared for what’s about to come allows the nervous system to relax, standing it down from the fight-flight-response mode as it knows what is coming.

A child’s life is already out of control, not only are they fighting with hormone changes regularly, but they have absolutely no control or concept of what is happening next. Think about it, they are just dictated to by us adults (quite rightly too…can you imagine if we let them make the decisions?)

Talking the daily schedule through with them can instantly calm an anxious mind and make them feel safer. These tips can be amended to accommodate older children too. Who doesn’t love a self-care box and having someone to help them plan a daily routine?

Our children may grow up and move out and although there is nothing more rewarding than watching them become their own person. Nothing can replace that feeling of fulfilment, knowing they feel safe in coming to you when the going gets tough for them.

Of course, not only do I get to experience that fulfilment with my own children but I also get it knowing that I have helped other people’s children too. There is nothing more rewarding for me than seeing people put into practice the tools and techniques we discuss in therapy. Seeing them walk out of their last session with me, equipped with that mental toolbox that they are able to pull on at any point in their life, really is priceless. Getting reviews like the one below really puts into perspective how much of a difference therapy can make in someone’s life.

What can I say? I didn’t know what way to turn before finding Laura, my daughter was so ill with anxiety that she wasn’t going to school and was panicking every time she had to leave me or her dad – this was down to COVID we think. We went to the doctors but didn’t think they understood and spent weeks trying to find ‘the right’ person for her but everyone else felt so formal and tense and when we came across Laura it felt like we had finally got some hope in getting her into a better place.

From the very first session with Laura we felt relieved and like we’d found an angel! She totally understood where my daughter was and put her at ease straight away. She had tried therapy before but wasn’t very keen on it, but when working with Laura she looked forward to the sessions as she could see just how much better they made her feel.

After just four sessions my daughter got back into school and was less anxious. She was back to her former self. We continued with the sessions still monthly to ensure what Laura had taken her through was instilled in her.

She was able to make the transition to senior school calmly and it didn’t phase her at all – we were so worried about the transition before she had sessions with Laura as we weren’t sure how she would cope. We would not hesitate to reach out to Laura again if ever we need her and would definitely book my daughter in with her when she is doing her GCSEs to ensure she feels mentally ready for them.

We cannot thank her enough!

If you or your child are facing a tough time and want to understand how I can help, please book in a free 20-minute discovery call with me now and we can discuss how I can help you.