How can I help when my child feels anxious?

Growing up involves lots of challenges, so it’s natural to feel worried, scared or anxious from time to time. There can be many reasons for these feelings.

You can help by letting your child know it’s OK to talk about their mental health.

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Understand anxious feelings and anxiety

Your child may worry about events such as exams, or big life changes like a new school or moving house. This is natural and will often resolve as your child gets used to the ‘new normal’. If your child has a learning disability or autism, they may worry more than other children their age, and adjusting to change can take longer.

For some children and young people, worry is present more often and impacts their everyday life. If someone has an anxiety disorder, this means they feel anxious most of the time. It can affect eating, sleeping and their ability to go to school. They may miss out on activities.

Over time, your child can develop tools to manage these feelings. But if anxious feelings are affecting their everyday life, it may also help to find some extra support.

Be available to listen

Get into the habit of chatting about how things are going every day, not just talking when something is wrong. Older children and teens won’t always feel like sharing. Respect their space and let them know you’re there if they need you.

  • Ask your child how they’re feeling. Let them share whatever they want.
  • Try to bring emotions into everyday situations. This could be when you’re watching TV, walking, reading or playing games, for example.
  • If your child doesn’t want to talk, ask if another method would work. They might be happy to check in by text or WhatsApp, or try a feelings thermometer.

Your child may want to confide in their peers or another adult, rather than you. That’s often the case as children grow.

Teach them how to manage their feelings

Show your child it’s OK to talk about feelings. Tell them how you feel and what you’re going to do to manage your emotions. Speak about how to release positive or difficult feelings, maybe through music or walks outside.

Suggest activities to help them manage anxious feelings. Make sure you introduce these when your child or teen is in a calm place, rather than in crisis.

We also have advice for helping your child with separation anxiety.

Get support for your child

You can get extra support for you and your child:

  • Speak to your GP. They may refer you to support services such as CAMHS.
  • Contact your child’s school to see if they have some extra support available.
  • Think Ninja is an app that helps child and young people understand their mental health and learn ways to cope.
  • The Mix offers free, confidential support for young people under 25 via online, social and mobile.
  • Shout is a free, confidential text message support service for anyone who is struggling to cope. Text ‘Shout’ to 85258.

If you’re worried that anxiety may mean your child is at risk of harming themselves, we have advice on self-harm, eating disorders and suicidal thoughts.

Want more support? For advice on your specific issue, speak to one of our parenting coaches.

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