Nurturing Resilience

Nurturing Resilience

Jon Couch
by Jon Couch
Published on Apr 29, 2024
0 min read

A Guide to Supporting Children and Young People with Anxiety

In the fast-paced and increasingly complex world we live in, anxiety has become an increasing concern, especially among children and young people and families. This was certainly noticeable even before we were affected by the COVID pandemic. The pressures of academic performance, social dynamics, and the digital age/social media can contribute to the rise in anxiety levels. As parents and school staff it is crucial to understand and implement effective strategies to support children and young people who suffer from anxiety.

Foster Open Communication:

Building trust and open lines of communication is foundational to supporting children and young people who experience anxiety.  It is important to encourage them to express their thoughts and feelings without judgment and create a safe space where they feel comfortable sharing their concerns, helping to validate their emotions and reduce feelings of isolation.

Normalise and Educate on Anxiety:

Understanding anxiety is the first step toward effectively supporting those who suffer from it. We need to educate children and young people about anxiety, explain that we all experience it, and show practical ways to manage it. Children and young people will often need us to model and demonstrate coping mechanisms with them, such as deep breathing exercises, mindfulness, or journaling, to empower them in handling their anxious thoughts.

Establish Predictable Routines:

Consistency and routine provide a sense of stability for anxious individuals. Establishing predictable daily routines can help children and young people feel more in control of their environment. Knowing what to expect reduces uncertainty and mitigates anxiety triggers.  

Encourage Healthy Lifestyle Habits:

Promote a healthy lifestyle that includes proper nutrition, regular physical activity, limiting and modelling social media use and getting sufficient sleep. These factors play a significant role in managing anxiety and maintaining overall well-being. Establishing healthy habits early on can contribute to a more resilient mindset.

Provide Positive Reinforcement:

Celebrate small victories and achievements to boost the confidence of anxious children and young people. Positive reinforcement (using visuals/photos or ‘gratitude journals’ at times) can build resilience and help them recognise their strengths, fostering a more positive self-image.  Particularly key is to help children to learn how they might learn from one anxious situation (where they coped, or it was not so bad) and take this to use in other situations.  

Collaborate with Schools and the wider community:

Anxiety often manifests in various settings, including schools and communities. Collaborate with teachers, pastoral support staff in school, and community organisations to create a supportive network. Implementing consistent strategies across different environments can reinforce a child's sense of security.

Model Healthy Coping Strategies:

Children learn by observing. Demonstrate healthy coping strategies in our own lives, showing how to manage stress and anxiety effectively. By modelling resilience and (appropriately) showing when/how we might feel anxious and how we might deal with it, provides a valuable example for them to follow.

Encourage Peer Support:

Facilitate connections with peers who understand and empathise with the challenges of anxiety. Peer support can be a powerful tool, creating a sense of belonging and reducing the stigma often associated with mental health issues.

Promote a Positive School Environment:

Schools play a pivotal role in the lives of children and young people. Advocate for a positive and inclusive school environment that prioritises mental health and fosters a sense of belonging.

Seek Professional Help When Necessary:

While informal support is crucial, recognising when to seek professional help is equally important. If anxiety significantly interferes with a child's daily life on a regular basis, it may be necessary to consult with mental health professionals who specialise and have experience of working with children and young people.

Next steps:

Supporting children and young people with anxiety requires a holistic approach that addresses their emotional, physical, and social well-being. By fostering open communication, providing education, and building a supportive network, we can contribute to the development of resilient individuals capable of navigating life's challenges.

To learn more about supporting and working with children and young people with anxiety, our partner schools can liaise with their MAST link educational psychologist or contact us on 01752 788076 and book onto our CPD training on this topic.