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Update: How to Reduce Anxiety in our Young People

By Nikki Bonus

Published 14 May 2020 15.21 PM

During uncertain times like these it is hard for adults and children not to feel some anxiety. Anxiety is a natural process for the mind to process troubles and problems in our lives. But when anxiety starts to become overwhelming, it is necessary to have some processes in place to overcome anxiety and develop coping mechanisms to deal with it when it arises. I wanted to share some helpful information to help parents and teachers assist our young people manage anxiety in today’s uncertainty.

Anxiety for Children

Anxiety is a common behaviour in children as they work to find their place in the world. It’s a natural part of our survival instinct and contributes to that all important ‘fight or flight’ mechanism. While it’s imperative for our brain and body to remain alert in order to deal with impending danger, too much anxiety can be debilitating. 

Children often learn to cope with fear of the unknown, however, when anxiety seems to surround them, they may need more support. Their anxiety may stop them participating in normal activities or interfere with their ability to do things. Their fears and worries are greater than normal. 

Anxiety in children can present physical symptoms such as sleepless nights, stomach aches, diarrhoea and headaches, difficulty concentrating, behavioural issues and being tired and irritable. Sometimes when children are left to develop their own coping mechanisms to deal with anxiety, they may use an avoidance strategy or rely on an adult to deal with their issues for them. These solutions are not ideal in the long term. Avoiding situations can lead to troubles socialising, keeping up at school and lack of ability to deal with stress later.


Anxiety for Teenagers

School, social settings, family trauma and bodily changes can all contribute to anxiety in teenagers. All things changes are currently at play for our teenagers right now. Like younger children, they are working to develop coping mechanisms, but overwhelming anxiety will need some form of adult assistance.

Anxiety can prevent teenagers' ability to concentrate and focus on school work, activities and everyday tasks. Additional signs of anxiety in teenagers can be a racing heart, butterflies in the stomach, shakiness, or nausea, obsessing over things, and/or losing sleep.

Overthinking situations is a common trait of anxiety in teens, as is irrational and negative thought. While it’s natural to want to avoid situations that can make us feel bad, it’s important for teens to find strategies to cope with anxiety in order to set themselves up for success in the future.

 

Tips for Parents

According to Viorel Lupu and Felicia Iftene in their journal article, The Impact Of Rational Emotive Behaviour Education On Anxiety In Teenagers, Anxiety is the most frequent mental health issue presenting among children and teenagers, especially in these uncertain times.

Beyond Blue tells us we can recognise the signs of anxiety in children and teenagers. They say children and teens might “seek reassurance often, avoid situations they feel worried or scared about, try to get others to do the things they are worried about, tell you they have physical pains, have lots of fears, get upset easily, cling to you, [not] want to get ready for school, [not] go to sleep without a parent or other adult, cry over small things, complain about being picked on a lot or always see the dangerous or negative side of things” (Beyond Blue).

Here are some tips for Parents to help their children during these times:

  • Recognise their anxiety with presence and compassion.

  • Show them some coping mechanisms, rather than do things for the child.

  • Develop problem solving skills for your child with your child so they are a part of their own solution and success.

  • Teach your child resilience and encourage them to try things that are giving them anxiety – the sense of achievement when an obstacle is conquered is confidence building and one of the best strategies there is! Download our FREE Resilience resource.

  • Listen, care, understand, and work together to find solutions.

  • Seek support from a counsellor, the child’s teachers, or a psychologist should you need.

Additional Tips for Teachers

By having a supportive classroom, with wellbeing at the forefront, teachers can support students with anxiety and stress during these times. In addition to the above tips for parents, it can help to teach relaxation exercises and skills, discuss healthy ways of dealing with anxiety and stress, and celebrating brave behaviour.

Of course, self-regulation is key, and these skills can be modelled by the facilitator of learning. It’s also important to encourage independence and show them that making mistakes is ok. They will build resilience and strategies to cope.

Anxiety and stress can sometimes be part of larger mental health concerns, so treat every case as an individual one and allow open lines of communication between yourself, the school counsellor, the student and the student’s family.

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Life Skills GO can help support teachers, parents, and communities with managing anxiety in children and teenagers. We have developed a specific module using practical tools and techniques for managing anxiety and stress in these times.

We are offering special packages during this time for Parents, Teachers and Schools. For further information please click here or feel free to contact us at support@lifeskillsgroup.com.au for further information.

Follow us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram to be kept up to date on upcoming workshops, free resources and special offers.

Photo credits: Photo by Fernando @cferdo on Unsplash

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