6 Tips for Parents: Helping Your Child Cope with Anxiety
It is normal for children to feel stressed by the pressures of growing up, school life and exams, but there are things parents can do to help. Rachel George, School Counsellor at Yew Chung International School of Beijing, shares some of her tips for parents on helping children cope with stress and anxiety.
How to spot anxiety
The signs are not always obvious and anxiety looks different in different people. Some common signs are: crying, whining, temper tantrums, withdrawal, nail-biting, nervous picking, scratching or twitching, loss of appetite or insomnia. If any of these behaviours have arrived suddenly and out-of-the-blue, it could be a sign of anxiety.
Tell them they’re not alone
Everyone from childhood to old age experiences stress and anxiety. Sometimes the things that make us feel stressed are short-lived. Sometimes they can last months or years. If your child is feeling stressed or anxious, tell them that they’re not alone.
Take a walk
Walking and talking is a useful way of dealing with those outbursts of emotion or stress that can overcome children and teens. Encourage your child to take a short walk with you and talk about something else. Let their mind wander to a happier time or place and recall a good memory together. Don’t talk about the stress until they’ve cooled off. This kind of activity also really helps to build trust between parents and children.
Make a worry box
Sometimes children will be reluctant to open up about their feelings face to face. In my workshop, I will be making “worry boxes” with parents. Set up a worry box in the house and ask your family to post things in that are making them feel anxious. You can do this as a parent too. This process will (A) help your child identify their stress and (B) help you discuss it.
Make time to relax
After a busy day at school, children need time to relax and unwind. They need time to play, hang out with friends, listen to music, and watch TV. Time spent doing nothing is essential for their personal development and mental health. I understand why parents want their children to do lots of co-curricular activities, but make sure they also have time to chill out. This will really help them cope with the pressures of school.
Talk, talk, talk!
As a general rule, the more parents and children talk to each other the better they will be able to cope with life’s pressures. Be open about your own feelings. Have honest discussions as a family. Show your child that it’s ok to feel down sometimes. Be there to listen.