From starting school to joining new clubs, there is often the potential for anxiety to arise in children’s lives. However, to prevent this, or to manage it when it occurs, there are a variety of practical steps you can employ.
Watch for warning signs
One of the difficulties for parents is that stress in children often presents itself in an unconscious way for example, through tummy trouble, irritability, tiredness and lack of concentration. Therefore, in order to detect stress and anxiety it’s important to be aware of any changes in behaviour or health in your children.
Talk about feelings
If your child talks directly about being fearful about something then encourage open and honest discussion about that fear.
Sudden changes in routine, as well as the thought of doing something new, are often the main cause for anxiety. So, talking to your child about what to expect and what can be done to help can alleviate many of their fears.
Also, questions help to probe deeper whilst demonstrating that you are listening to and interested in what they think and feel. Acting as their guide rather than an instructor helps to build a child’s confidence in their ability to solve their own problems.
Create a routine
Structure can be helpful and stabilising when a child is faced with anxiety around new and unknown challenges. Therefore, this is a good time to set boundaries around homework, bedtime and alarm calls.
Maintain a balance
School clubs, extra homework and meetings with friends are all important aspects of a child’s life but they do add to the demands on their time too. This means it’s important to keep an eye on their schedule for over commitment and check they are coping with all that is required for the completion of homework.
The pressure of ‘getting it right’ is a known source of stress so talking regularly about homework and how they are managing provides a great support. Some children really benefit from extra help and outside tutoring if a subject is particularly challenging.
Build in daily downtime
The many demands of the day can be tiring and overwhelming so it’s crucial to schedule in regular slots to stop, relax, breathe and rest in whichever way is best suited to your child’s needs.
Keep calm and exercise
Children, especially younger ones, are like mini sponges that pick up on happy, relaxed atmospheres as well as on tension.
As a result, it’s crucial to take care of your own needs and do all you can to avoid too much stress. This might mean taking time out for your favourite exercise class or ensuring you spend an afternoon a week with friends. Children pick up on how you are feeling so take steps to ensure there is positivity.
Eat, sleep and exercise well
Good sleep is critical for us all because lack of sleep can exacerbate symptoms of stress and may even result in problems with behaviour, alertness, irritability, sadness and anger.
Exercise and outdoor activity will help children let off steam but also creates the physical (not only mental/emotional) tiredness which promotes good sleep. However, it also boosts those feel good chemicals known as endorphins which can raise mood.
A good breakfast, as well as healthy snacks and regular meals, are also important as they maintain blood sugar levels and energy. Don’t forget about hydration though - keep an eye on your child’s intake by encouraging them to take water regularly. After all, dehydration alone can seriously impact energy, concentration and stress levels.