5 ways to help children manage their anxiety
Published on: 19 January 2022 Author: Lisa Thompson
Author Lisa Thompson often writes about feeling anxious in her books: an emotion that's reared its head for everyone over the last couple of years. Here, she shares some favourite ways of bringing some calm and quiet to an anxious mind.
Illustration by Jim Smith
Anxiety has become a bit of a recurring theme in my books and I think the reason is that it’s an emotion that all of us can relate to – young and old, reader and writer.
No matter how confident you come across, you will have experienced anxiety at some point in your life. Unfortunately, for a lot of adults and children, anxiety can become overwhelming, which can be utterly debilitating for the sufferer and for those around them.
Here are a few of my favourite tips that might help all involved:
1. Explain that anxiety is a normal human response
As humans, we need anxiety to survive – that’s how we managed to escape from that wild bear in the past! But in modern times, where we don’t need anxiety to prompt us to run away from a hungry lion, it can arise irrationally. We can’t get rid of anxiety completely, nor should we want to, but we can learn to control it, so it doesn’t overwhelm us. By understanding that we have anxiety for a reason, and that maybe our brains are actually fooling us about the situation being scary, can help us to deconstruct what is actually going on.
2. Schedule time to be creative
Life is hectic for all of us and that includes our young people. We have constant entertainment at the tip of our fingers and most of us never allow ourselves to be bored.
Set aside some time in the week to do something creative away from screens. Colour a picture, bake a cake, write a poem, go crazy with the Lego… Allow your brain to have a rest from worrying and see what it might discover.
3. Keep a diary
Writing down how you feel each day can help to keep track of those anxious moments. You might want to write a paragraph, score your anxiety out of ten, or draw a happy, neutral or sad face. In the days to come, you can look back at any moments of anxiety and realise that you overcame those moments, so maybe the next scary situation will be even easier?
4. Encourage bravery
This is hard when you see a child struggling in a situation that is making them anxious, but encourage them to be brave and face the thing that is making them fearful. By doing the things that make us scared help us to take control and teach our brains that actually, that probably wasn’t so bad after all. Small steps can lead to beautiful views!
5. Read or listen to a book
Choosing a story where the protagonist overcomes some kind of worry in their lives can really help a young person to realise that they are not alone. And if the hero in the story can be brave and win in the end, maybe they can too?
Lisa Thompson's new book The Rollercoaster Boy is out now
Take a look at these BookTrust-recommended books to talk about anxiety and other tough emotions with children.
We've put together a selection of picture books that can help young children to start to understand mental health, support a healthy mind, and supply useful strategies.
Sharing picture books and talking about the words and images you see can help you to gently introduce topics which might seem tricky to talk about at first. It also provides an opportunity to spend special one-on-one time with your child where they feel supported and listened to.
Picture books can be a great way to get children to discuss their feelings.
Use the Bookfinder to find the perfect book for you, your family and friends.
You can use our special tools to search hundreds of children's book reviews by age, category and theme.