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Helping Children with Anxiety

Find out more about supporting your child with anxiety with our Family and Children Mental Health Practitioner, Lianne.

To understand anxiety, it helps to understand how exactly the brain works.

If we think back to mankind's early days, the main function of our brain was to keep us safe. Our brain still functions very much the same to this day, however there are times when our brains can be a little bit tricky and think we are under threat when we are not.

The part of the brain that interprets dangers and tells the body how it needs to respond, initiates our fight flight and freeze mode. Our flight, flight and freeze modes helps us in times of imminent danger, if we sense we are in danger, our brain kicks into action to protect us. The thing we notice is our heart starts to pump faster and pumps adrenaline around our bodies, the body needs to prepare to fight, flight or freeze.

So what are the fight, flight or freeze modes?

The first thing we notice is the adrenalin pumping round the body and the heart starts to pump faster, the body needs to prepare to either fight, flight or freeze. The heart pumps blood to the muscles in the arms and legs, this will enable us to either physically fight, which can be shown as meltdown, aggressive behaviour, lashing out or argumentative, or problem solving the worry. Alternatively, we run away, which is identified as avoidance. The problem occurs when the system in misfiring due to increased cortisol levels (stress hormone) and the child finds it difficult to regulate themselves.

Anxiety can often present itself in various ways, such as;

· Physical distress – shaking/crying/hyperventilating, screaming.

· Fleeing/escaping.

· Outright statements of anxiety – “I am afraid the house will burn down while I sleep”

· Refusal to engage in activities

· Refusal to be alone without a parent

· Extreme distress upon contact with feared object.

How can you help your child?

It may seem obvious that the parent/child bond is vital for children’s development, however it is important to reinforce the child/parent bond to help support children’s mental health and wellbeing.

We recommend planning some time a couple of days a week, where you can spend one-to-one time with your child. During this time, try a new activity that your child would like to try or an activity your child really enjoys. This time is all about them, give them control over this activity, what we find with anxious children is having a little control can help them feel safe and less anxious. As well as allowing them a small level of control, spending time together helps to reinforce the bond and can lead to opportunities for children to discuss their worries or things that are concerning them.

Examples of these activities could be play, arts and crafts, puzzles or walks, use your imagination here.

Did you find this blog useful? Let us know what you thought in the comments below!

You can listen to Lianne, talk through this information in the 'Helping Children with Anxiety Podcast' click here:

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