The first day of term, public speaking, NAPLAN, even just everyday interactions on the playground - what do these have in common?
If you guessed common sources of anxiety for primary school children, give yourself a pat on the back.
As adults with life experience, these activities can seem relatively innocuous, however, in a big and fast moving world these things can often make our children feel overly worried, like they want to procrastinate or even sometimes move them to tears.
The latest Australian study of children aged 4-11 highlighted that the prevalence of anxiety disorders is sitting at 6.9%, this is at almost the same level as experienced within adolescents.
For those of us who are parents, carers or teachers; this is a worrying trend. But could this just be an increase in awareness of mental wellbeing concerns? Or do we have a national crisis on our hands?
Unfortunately for those who don’t like shades of grey, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. So, how can we provide children the effective tools to improve positive mental wellbeing and decrease rates of stress and anxiety?
3 Strategies to Manage and Reduce Anxiety in Children
It is crucial to be mindful of the fact that children need to grow to become empowered and develop behaviours and skills to manage anxiety of their own accord. An important part of this is to avoid providing the solution for children, whether it be by doing things for them, excluding them from responsibility or making rationalisations for behaviours. Here are 3 strategies that you can utilise to reduce your children's anxiety:
By giving children the opportunity to play in an unstructured, non-competitive way, we are allowing them to explore their non-academic skills of curiosity, communication and form a sense of self and physical awareness. This play might look like activities such as; allowing children to explore their environment, use technology to develop functional code or making up their own fantasy games. Through this play, children learn the process behind how to solve problems, support relationships through communication and become curious to the ideas around them which all help to empower development of agency towards their mental wellbeing.
2. PRACTICE MINDFULNESS
Another way to simply and directly reduce anxiety among children is to practise mindfulness. Mindfulness of late, has become a buzzword in education as it gains it’s rightful credence as a key determinant of positive social, emotional and physical wellbeing. Practising mindfulness doesn’t necessarily mean sitting still with your eyes closed for an hour a day. Mindfulness can be practiced in all aspects of our lives, from mindful eating to mindful communication with others. It can be as simple as noticing our actions and considering their consequences for the people around us, our environment and ourselves. Check out our mindfulness activity here to learn how you can help your children tame their brain!
3. COGNITIVE BEHAVIOURAL THERAPY
With a child suffering high levels of anxiety on a consistent basis there's no shame in asking for help!
It is the job of counsellors and psychological professionals to provide people (young and old) the skills to improve their mental health and wellbeing, often through techniques such as: Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), accessing this help at younger age has its pros and cons.
Pros: Early behavioural intervention and development of positive wellbeing strategies will help to mitigate the effects of anxiety and unhelpful behaviours which might be unearthed later on in life, when they’re more difficult to change. Medicare rebates 10 appointments in a calendar year through a Mental Health Care Plan as part of a referral for treatment from a doctor.
Cons: Children might not see themselves as normal as it’s 'not the done thing’ and this process can be costly if the number of appointments goes beyond the rebated limit.
In order to give our next generations the best possible chance to live a positive life, unburdened by anxiety it is imperative to develop the capabilities of social, emotional and physical learning. These strategies are just some of the ways, for you to achieve this and improve mental health and wellbeing for your children.