Understanding and Supporting Children with Anxiety

Due to the evolving needs of children in schools, it is important for teachers to have an understanding of anxiety and to develop strategies to help support their individual needs. Jules Haddock is a REACH Facilitator who works in community health. She has had personal experience with mental illness and anxiety in her family, and was able to deliver relevant messages for both parents and educators. Jules’ aim is to increase community acceptance of Anxiety Disorders by raising awareness and providing support.

What Does Anxiety Look Like?

Affecting approximately two million Australians, anxiety can lead to distress which can get in the way of a person’s ability to learn, socialise and do everyday activities. Feelings of intense fear can consistently hinder a child’s ability to learn at school. It is important for teachers to be aware that 1 in 4 children may experience mental illness and 50% of Anxiety Disorders start before the age of 18.

60,000 thoughts travel through our brain every day and these influence our actions. When we have toxic thoughts, we have negative emotional responses. A thought drives an emotion which then drives a behaviour. These in turn drive fearful thoughts and can lead to physiological changes.

How Can We Help?
Jules shared the importance of communication and how crucial it is for children to talk about how are they feeling and any “worries” they might be experiencing. We must not be frightened to address anxiety, and we can deal with it through open and honest conversations. Some strategies that Jules shared during the session were:

  • The need to let thoughts and emotions out e.g. bounce a ball, draw a picture, skip etc
  • To cope with the fear, we need to face the fear
  • To offer support and reassurance
  • To remain calm, the pain and anxiety will release. When our body starts to react, recognise it and it will go away
  • To validate: Offer places to talk. Sit in the pain with someone else without trying to fix it. Notice, acknowledge, actively listen, and by doing this we are helping to fix it. It’s ok to feel that way
  • To INSTILL HOPE… because pain passes 🙂

Useful Resources

  • Gratitude Journal App: introduces positive thoughts
  • Reach Out “Worry Time” App: write a list of worries before bed
  • Breathe App: teaching breathing
  • Feelings Thermometer
  • Jules Haddock website link: http://www.theanxiousbird.com.au/

Nikki Davidson, Simone Edwards and Jaclyn Knox

[Anxiety Photo credit: PracticalCures.com]

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