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Spotting the signs of anxiety in children and young people
Anxious behaviour is common in children and young people. Most learn to deal with fears and worries. However, help may be needed if:
- They feel anxious more than other children/young people of their age and level,
- Their anxiety stops them participating in activities at school, university or socially,
- Their anxiety affects their ability to do things that other children/young people their age do easily.
The NHS Choices website has a useful section aimed at parent/carers titled 'anxiety disorders in children’. Their information includes how to recognise the signs and symptoms, and the different types of anxiety.
Some common signs of anxiety in young children are:
- Very clinging
- Asking for help with things they can do for themselves
- They won’t get ready for school
- Won’t go to sleep without a parent/adult
- Frequent complaints of stomach pains or headaches
- Fears - the dark, animals, injections, being alone, germs and tests
- Frequently cries over small things.
The most common anxiety disorders in primary school-aged children are phobias and separation anxiety.
The Child Mind Institute website has some useful tips on ‘What to do (and what not to do) when children are anxious.'
In teenager’s, anxiety may appear as:
- Suddenly avoiding social interactions with usual friends
- Withdrawal from their favourite activities
- Preferring to spend increasingly more time alone.
How should I talk to my child/young person about their feelings?
The NHS Choices website has an advice page on how to start a conversation with your child tiled ‘Talking to children about their feelings’
MindEd-for families website has a resourceful section on ‘Talking to My Child’ to help you find ways to communicate to children and teenagers when they might need it.
Resources to help children/young people explore their emotions
Childline has a good page about ‘Managing Your Anxiety’ aimed at children.
The Relax kids website has lots of creative resource packs for kids - some are free, but you do need to register on their website to download them.
The Royal College of Psychiatrists website has a list of ‘children’s books - suitable for younger children from preschool to 12 years’ which address a whole range of health and wellbeing topics.
Suffolk Libraries has a list of self-help books suitable for young people and parent/carers to request at their local library. Visit www.suffolklibraries.co.uk
Parents/carers can also find various book recommendations to support your child with all sorts of issues from the Suffolk Parent Hub
Take a look at our list of 'Videos and creative things to help support children's mental health'.
My child has anxiety, what should I do?
Make an appointment at your GP surgery to talk about your concerns on your own or with your child, or your child can make an appointment without you.
Alternatively, you can make a referral or get advice about wellbeing and mental health support services from the Suffolk Children & Young People's Emotional Wellbeing Hub
Encourage your child to eat healthy and staying active can help with their anxiety. Show them that you care and want to understand why they feel anxious. You can also find out if their school or college provides counselling for pupils/students.
Where can I find useful resources?
The Royal College of Psychiatrists website has some good tips for how parents and carers can help stop their child being anxious on their page - ‘worries and anxiety-helping children to cope:information for parents and carers’.
YoungMinds Charity have the Parents Lounge with lots of 20 minute activity ideas, conversation starters and resources which includes this really good video chat session on 'managing anxiety in children'...
Where can I find local support groups and organisations who can help?
Here is a list of local support services and organisations for anxiety (you can filter the list to find what you need).
Where can I find a useful health and wellbeing App?
If you are looking for helpful phone apps that can provide some in-hand support to a young person struggling with emotional issues, please see our list of the best emotional wellbeing apps reviewed by young people.
Who can I speak to for advice?
If you are concerned about the mental health of a child or young person aged 0-25, please contact the Suffolk Children and Young People's Emotional Wellbeing Hub to get advice or make a referral.
Other services you can contact for support:
YoungMinds Parent Helpline
Call: 0808 802 5544. Their helpline is available Monday-Friday, from 9.30am to 4pm.
The YoungMinds helpline has trained advisers who offer friendly and confidential advice to help answer your questions.
(YoungMinds currently have a new Take20 campaign - activities you could do in twenty minutes with your child to help talk to them about how they feel.)
Suffolk School Nursing - ChatHealth Text Service
Text 07507 333356 for confidential health advice from the school nurse (available Mon-Fri 9.30am to 4.30pm)