We understand that children need physical education and but what about helping a childâ€™s mental health such as how to deal with worries and anxiety?Â
As someone who has had mental health problems since I was at school and now being a mum myself and running Yorkshire Families (which aims to get all families exploring Yorkshire regardless of barriers such as mental health problems), I understand the importance of supporting young people and preventing more mental health issues in the future and enabling them to have the ‘best’ start possible.Â
I recently went to a workshop on â€œHow to help your child overcome worries and anxietyâ€ by South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Trust.Â
Here are the tips on helping a child with worries and anxietyâ€¦Â
- Ask your child what they are worried about when you notice they are worried or soon after. Donâ€™t assume you know what is worrying them. Use open questions such as what, when and why?
- Try to encourage the child to think of solutions to their worry. Ask things like â€˜Has that ever happened before?â€™ Has it happened to someone else? How likely is it that this will happen? If this does happen could there be other reasons for it? Ask if (event) happened to a friend what do they think the friend would do?
- For children who find it difficult to verbalise their worries encourage them to write or draw their worry. Make a worry box or monster to put the worries in. Go through the worries with the child at a set time each day, not too near to bed time. This limits the amount of time a child worries each day as they know they will have set time to talk and think about their worries.
- If children find it difficult to recognise anxiety draw a body outline and encourage them to draw physical feelings i.e. butterflies in stomach, shaky legs, you can draw your own physical feelings on a body outline.
- Some younger children like to draw their worries and tear them up or make them into comical characters. For older children encourage them to write feelings and emotions down in a journal.
- Encourage children to â€˜have a goâ€™ at something they are worried about, give praise if they achieve even a small part of their worry. Set child doable goals using visual pictures, make small steps they can achieve to reach their goals, expect setbacks.
- Make sure your child can identify activities, places and people they can talk to which help to make them feel relaxed.
- Teach them simple breathing and distraction techniques e.g. counting rectangles in a room, use a rectangle to slow breathing down i.e. breath in for a count of 2, pause, breath out for 3, pause and repeat.
- Make sure child can identify someone at home and at school who they can talk to.Â Â
- Use positive self- talk, children learn from example, encourage them to use phrases like â€˜I can do this, I am good atâ€¦, I like myself becauseâ€¦.
ASK open questions (donâ€™t assume)
ENCOURAGE THEM TO SPEAK, WRITE OR DRAW their worriesÂ
CREATE a worry box or monster to put their worries inÂ
SET SMALL GOALS to overcome their worryÂ
BREATHE mindfulness and distraction techniquesÂ
USE POSITIVE SELF-TALK Children learn from exampleÂ
SUPPORT Make sure a child has someone at home and/or school to talk toÂ
Some useful books and resources on helping a Child with worries or anxiety:
â€˜What to do when you worry too muchâ€™ by Dawn Huebner
â€˜Little Miss Shyâ€™ Roger Hargreaves
Overcoming Your Childâ€™s Fear and Worries, Cathy Creswell and Lucy Willetts.
Anxiety-Young Minds www.youngminds.org.uk
Anxiety in Children NHS.UK
Older children and young people:
Moodjuice self- help resources www.moodjuice
Kooth online counselling www.kooth.com
There are many apps and meditation websites that help children build up a â€˜tool boxâ€™ of coping strategies to help then deal with situations they find stressful.