Exploring Anxiety

14 Jun 2019

A certain level of anxiety in children can be normal; however, questions are often raised around the difference between stress and anxiety and how to manage challenging situations with a child. During the Oac Inspired Parent Series at our Market Street campus, Dr Simone Chartres addressed some commonly asked questions by our Oac families.

My child will be fine during the day, but their worries come at bedtime. How should I best approach the situation?

  • Validate and acknowledge your child’s worries, don’t dismiss them
  • Schedule a time to deal with the worries and communicate this with your child. For instance, ‘it is very late now and time for bed, but we can discuss this in the morning at breakfast’
  • It is important to challenge and face the worries together head on. Stress or anxiety often manifests when we avoid our fears and run away from them.

What is the difference between everyday stress in a child and genuine anxiety?

One of the key differentiators between stress and anxiety are that stress will often be relieved once the fearful situation passes, whereas anxiety is enduring and manifests itself with a change in behaviour. An example of stress may be that a child is nervous about attending a party on the weekend however will calm down once the party is over. An example of anxiety may be that a child is nervous about attending a party on the weekend and avoids all social situations.

What are some practical ways of helping my child who is anxious about being in big groups?

  • Validate and acknowledge your child’s worries, don’t dismiss them
  • Examine the worries and discuss what aspect of the social situation is worrying your child
  • Challenge the worry with your child and push through the fear together.

Should I manage my child’s behaviour or help them in case their behaviour is due to anxiety?

  • Be mindful to support your child but not enable their behaviour. For instance, if your child is worried about going to school, understand why they are worried rather than enabling their concern and letting them stay home
  • Build your child’s resilience by helping them face their worries or anxiety
  • Monitor your own levels of anxiety as your child can read when you are anxious.

What are strategies for managing anxiety and regulating emotions?

  • Practise slow breathing and mindfulness with your child
  • Implement rewards and incentives when they challenge their fears or concerns
  • Visualise the situation together.