Over the past few months, we have all been experiencing extraordinary times. Now lockdown is easing, children may be feeling worried about returning to education or going back into busy public places.
Children whose lives have been impacted by meningitis may have additional concerns increasing their anxiety.
Although there are lots of reasons why your child may be feeling anxious, there are some simple strategies that can help.
Many children do not know what they are feeling is anxiety and can become frightened and overwhelmed. Ask your child if they feel worried or scared about anything and encourage them to talk about it. Help them to recognise when they are feeling anxious. Reassure your child that it is normal to feel worried when faced with a stressful situation, and that it will pass.
Children like routine, it helps them feel safe so they can relax and know what to expect. Stick to regular mealtimes and bedtimes. When a change to the routine occurs, prepare your child as much as possible. Explain what is going to happen and why. For example, returning to school following lockdown, talk to them about the changes they are likely to encounter and how this may make them feel.
One of the best distractions is fun and laugher. When we laugh, our brain releases chemicals which make us feel more relaxed. Find some fun activities that you and your child can enjoy doing together, or that you can support an older child to do.
Distraction can also be helpful in other ways. For example, a young child may be very anxious about going to a hospital appointment; try playing a game such as “I Spy” on the journey there.
4. Simple breathing exercises
When we are anxious, our breathing can become shallow. Teaching your child some breathing exercises to encourage slow, deep breaths can help. For example, take 3 slow deep breaths, breathing in for a count of 3 and then breathing out for 3. For younger children, you can ask them to lie on their back and put their favourite soft toy on their tummy. Ask them to move the toy up by breathing slowly in, using their tummy, then to bring the toy back down by breathing slowly out.
5. Worry box
Ask your child to decorate an empty box. Encourage them to write down or draw any worries they have over the day and pop them in the box. At the end of each day, or on a regular basis, sit down together and go through the pieces of paper. If the worry has gone, tear it up and throw it away. If the worry is still there, place it back in the box, and talk to your child about it.
6. Self soothe box
Older children may find it helpful to make a self soothe box. The box can be filled with things that make them feel better when they feel worried. Have a look at Young Minds for ideas on how to make a self soothe box.
7. Professional support
If your child's anxiety is severe, persists, and interferes with their everyday life, they may require more specialist support. Your GP will be able to advise you.
Every child is different and there are many more strategies which can help reduce anxiety. You can find more information on anxiety in children at the following links:
If you have any questions or concerns, you can call our nurse-led Helpline on 0808 80 10 388, or email email@example.com.