Mild anxiety can be a normal part of growing up and many kids will go through it at some stage. They might be troubled by an upcoming test, worried about monsters under the bed, being alone, their friendships or being on time, and may avoid unfamiliar situations.
When children experience mild anxiety, it isn't always outwardly obvious, especially when they're young. Some of the signs of constant worrying include daydreaming, stomachaches, headaches, tiredness and inattention.1 Anxious kids will often ask lots of questions over and over in a new situation such as "what will happen if?". They may also have trouble sleeping at night.1
No parent wants anxiety to hinder their child's enjoyment of life. Things you can do at home to help them manage their mild anxiety symptoms include:
- Build up their self confidence - It can be helpful to recognise and praise your child for facing challenges or trying something new, regardless of how small. Some children will appreciate a quiet pat on the back while others like big exuberant gestures. Try and find an avenue that you know your child will be good at such as art, music or sports and encourage them to pursue it.2
- Pay attention to your child's feelings - Talk to your child about what anxiety is, how it makes their body feel and why. Let your child know that a little anxiety is okay and not dangerous. It's the body's way of preparing them for a challenge and can actually be useful, helping them to perform at their best in some situations.
- Role-play scenarios - You could role play or act out possible ways your child could handle a situation they're worried about. Saying it aloud often helps kids feel more confident.2
- Stay calm when your child becomes anxious about a situation or event - Try to present a positive or at least neutral front and avoid making light of their fears.
- Show them how to think positively - For instance, if they're worried about missing the bus, ask them "what do you think we could do if that happens? We could catch the next bus?".3
- Learn relaxation techniques - Encourage relaxation methods such as yoga, deep breathing and meditation to help your child manage daily stresses and regain a sense of control. They might then be able to use some of these techniques when they?re feeling very anxious. Find a child-friendly yoga class in your area or look online where hundreds of resources can be found.
- Encourage regular exercise - Exercise is important as it can reduce stress hormone levels.3 If your child is anxious about joining a team sport with people they don?t know, go for walks or bike rides as a family and build up their confidence over time.
- Foster a healthy diet - Help your child have a healthy diet and limit consumption of sugar, additives and caffeinated drinks. Focus on fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean sources of protein such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans and lentils, and offer warm chamomile tea at night time, which has a calming effect on the nervous system.
- Ensure they get adequate sleep - Sleeping well may help your little one to cope better through the day.