Information & Advice
Health & Beauty Magazine
Health & Beauty Magazine Online Editor
Published 10th September 2008
It’s natural for children to feel sad, anxious, angry or upset from time to time. According to the Mental Health Foundation, signs of a worried mind include tantrums, nightmares, aches and pains, crying, clinginess and withdrawal. Luckily, you can do things to help. Here we explore common reasons why children worry and how you can help to make it better.
‘Big school’ is a major deal for your child. Making new friends and learning new skills can be daunting.
Your child says: ‘I don’t want to go to school’
It’s a huge step for a child to start at a new school, and many will be nervous. ‘Be a detective,’ says child psychologist Elaine Douglas. ‘Play with your child using dolls or puppets (young ones may find it easier to talk about it “through” the characters) and try to get to the bottom of the problem so you can address it.’
Your child says: ‘I’m not good at anything’
‘Children can be asked to do tasks they’re not ready for, like writing long sentences,’ says Sally Blythe, director of The Institute of Neuro Physiological Psychology. ‘They can then get stressed.’ Be patient and praise your child a lot. Most kids’ skills levels will even out eventually.
As children turn into teenagers, exams and relationships are just some of the things to get stressed about.
Your child says: ‘I’m scared I’ll fail my exams’
Exam pressure can be huge for children this age, as it may feel that so much depends on the results. If your child is struggling to cope, some extra help in a subject might be all they need. Find out if the school can offer extra lessons or if it would help to have private tuition. ‘Remind your children that there are many types of intelligence and school only measures one,’ says Sally.
Your child says: ‘I’m worried something will happen to you’
One of the biggest worries children this age have is that someone they love will get ill or die. This might be triggered by the death of a grandparent, a pet or even hearing something on the news.
‘Find out what’s triggering their fears,’ says Elaine. It’s best to be honest about the circle of life. ‘Reading a book together which explores illness and death is a good way to tackle this subject.’
Now they’re nearing adulthood, common burdens include body image and peer pressure.
Your child says: ‘I don’t fit in’
Feeling that you belong is very important at this age, so anything that makes your child feel different, like spots or wearing glasses, can worry them. Help them learn to love how they look: ‘Tell them everyone’s unique, and this is a good thing, otherwise the world would be dull,’ says Elaine.
Your child says: ‘My friends are doing it – should I?’
Peer pressure really kicks in during the teenage years, as your child’s friends become their strongest influence. When something is ‘forbidden’, like smoking, this increases its attractiveness more.
‘Encourage them to open up to you,’ says Elaine. ‘Talk to them about health choices and the consequences of making the wrong one, and hopefully they’ll make the right decision.’
Give them extra help
Helen Frank-Keyes, 42, from Guildford, says: ‘Victoria, 8, moved up a maths class recently but she found the work much harder. So we studied together at home and now she’s coping well.’
Be there if they need to talk
Rowena Holland, 49, from Surrey, says: ‘Katarina, 11, worries about her weight so I reassure her she is a healthy size, and we chat about how to eat more healthily, by snacking on fruit. And I encourage her to have an active lifestyle by doing sport.’
Remind them of their strengths
Suzanne Elborn, 30, from Bedford, says: ‘My daughter Isabella, 7, gets frustrated if she hasn’t done well at school. So we then do something she’s great at, like painting. It boosts her confidence.
Make time for you
Supporting your children’s emotional needs can be incredibly draining. But when they stretch your patience to the limit, how you handle it can influence their behaviour.
Patricia Carswell, a life coach for mothers (www.coachingformothers.com) says: ‘Taking five minutes to write down all your thoughts can help clear your head, as can talking it through with someone. Don’t dwell on matters, as otherwise you’ll keep churning it over in your mind. A hobby entirely unrelated to your kids can be great, anything that uses your brain as well as your body will give your mind a break.’
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