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Rising anxiety in children and how to help

In the last few weeks I have received an influx of referrals requesting I offer work to children and young people who are experiencing raised anxiety levels. This probably isn’t surprising as the Covid-19 crisis has potentially invited all of us to feel more anxious and overwhelmed. Anxiety thrives on unknown factors and most of us currently face a multitude of ‘unknowns’ in our lives.

Unless their parents are key workers, children will have spent a considerable length of time out of school. Some will have enjoyed the break, the lie ins and the less structured days, but some of them will have missed going to school, possibly because they are missing their friends or they have realised being at home all the time can be a little bit boring. Some children are now able to return to school for a short period and quite a lot of them may take it in their stride and some might find it mildly inconvenient, causing disruption to their new normal routine, which they have managed to get used to. For other children though, the return to school can feel quite traumatic especially if their parent or parents are feeling anxious about them going back out into the ‘real world’ too. Children are very good at picking up unspoken signals and cues, so even if a parent isn’t directly saying to them that they are worried, children have an uncanny knack of picking up that tacit projection.

If both parents are part of the family structure, they can offer each other support in managing both their own and their children’s anxiety. They can discuss how they can respond to any worries their child may have, maybe each taking a slightly different stance with the young person, offering different ways of looking at the situation.

Managing a child’s anxiety can be harrowing if you are a single parent, especially when you have been forced to separate yourself from extended family and friends and maybe the relationship with the other parent isn’t ideal. Children’s levels of anxiety can naturally increase if parents separate and if the split is acrimonious a child can be left stuck in the middle of two opposing parents, which can be damaging to their emotional wellbeing. It feels even more pertinent at the moment, that separated parents, if at all possible maintain a civil relationship, which allows them to prioritise the needs of their children, which includes helping them when they are feeling anxious.

Most children have had to face huge changes in their lives over recent months, dependant on their age, some of them will not understand why life has had to change, others might feel resentful about the restrictions. If parents, separated or not can work together to support them through these challenging times, their children will benefit in both the short and the long term.

If you are making a new enquiry and have any questions about contact with your child please call Brethertons on 01788 557587. If you need any emotional support please contact me on elizabethheadley@brethertons.co.uk