It’s common for children to worry about things from time to time. Some children are ‘born worriers’, with a tendency to be anxious throughout their lives. Many children worry about changes and new situations: a new baby in the family, moving house, starting school. Friendships change frequently for young children and for some this can be a great cause of concern. For most children, these feelings will be temporary, although they may be distressing for the child and family while they last.
Children won’t often tell you – and may not be aware themselves – that they are worried. They are more likely to show this through:
- Physical symptoms: ‘I feel sick’, ‘I’ve got a tummy ache’
- Behaviour: becoming quiet and withdrawn, or more disruptive and attention-seeking
- Expressing fears: fear of the dark, or fear of you leaving them and never coming back
You can help your child to deal with their worries. Be honest with them and explain clearly in advance about any changes coming up. Give them time, listen to them and let them talk. Try to keep to regular routines as far as possible, including regular bedtimes. Sharing a book at bedtime can be a very effective way of dedicating special time for the child and giving them a chance to talk about anything that’s bothering them. If a child is particularly fearful and becoming distressed, simple calming techniques can be helpful: slow, deep breathing; counting to ten; closing the eyes and thinking of something or somewhere nice.
Talk to your child’s teacher if the child is particularly anxious. Of course, there may be times when the whole family is experiencing difficulties and stress. It can be especially difficult to support your child when you are feeling sad, angry or vulnerable yourself – in the middle of a divorce, for example, or after the death of a close relative.
We’ve put together some advice and helpful links on particularly worrying situations:
If your child’s anxiety becomes so severe that it stops them doing everyday activities, go and see your family doctor, who can recommend further help.
But remember, it’s normal for children to worry from time to time, and you can do a lot to help and support them. Giving your child a hug, and time to listen to them, will go a long way towards giving them the reassurance they need.
For recommendations of good story books about difficult situations for children, click here
Here are some links to websites with more information about children’s anxiety: