It is distressing to see a child who is anxious. No matter how much you try to reassure them and tell them not to worry, anxiety can affect all aspects of their life and be disruptive to family life as well. There are sources of help, through school, the GP and counselling, but resources are thin on the ground these days and in many places only the most extreme cases are referred to child counselling services.
If you can detect problems and worries at the early stages there are things you can do to help, and hopefully stop them from escalating. Here’s some tips from Bounceability which are suitable for all families.
1. Your outlook on life. If you are an anxious person your child’s worries might set off alarm bells for you. Try not to convey this to them and take an attitude that worries are never as bad as they seem (a teenage trait). The Bounceability tools are just as valid for adults as for kids – maybe keep the dancing to when they are at school – mum/dad is so embarrassing!
2. Keep up the talking. They may not be at the chattiest time of their life, but take an interest in what your child is doing and ask them how they are getting on. Find a good time to chat (without it being an interrogation) such as driving in the car, or meal time. Let them know they can bring their worries to you.
3. When I say talk, I actually mean listen. Don’t try and solve everything, they will do that for themselves with some encouragement. Ask them how they feel about that disappointing test result or a spat with a friend. Ask them what they would like to do about it. Tell them how they feel is natural, that the problem can be solved and the emotion will go.
4. Take exam pressures off. Of course, you want them to do well, but anxiety around exams will affect their performance, if not their health. Don’t show disappointment with low marks, ask them how they feel about the mark. Help them find strategies for studying and revision, but let them know however they do you will still love them and it won’t be the end of the world. Taking the pressure off will help them do their best. And encourage them to keep up sports and out of school activities.
5. Praise, praise, praise! Of course we have to correct a lot of teen behaviour, but notice the good points too and comment on them. Make praise, compliments and kindness a family value.
It’s all in the Bounceability toolkit – and it works for grown-ups too!