Anxiety in children can present in many ways:
- Somatic complaints including stomach aches, headaches, and needing to go to the toilet often.
- Avoidance heard as “I don’t want to go there”.
- Sleep difficulties.
- Eating difficulties.
- Feeling upset and irritable.
- Reassurance seeking like “will it be ok?”
When our children are feeling anxious they generally turn to us for reassurance, to assist them to make sense of the ‘danger’ and how to manage it.
With anxious children, as parents, it is easy to get caught up in the anxiety reassurance loop. Yes, reassurance helps to reduce anxiety in the short term however it serves to maintain anxiety in the long term, by our children feeling like they can only manage the worry with the reassurance that you offer.
It is important to remember that reassurance can be more helpful if it is “being with” our child and helping them to acknowledge their feelings, test the reality of their thoughts and then support them to problem solve. This type of reassurance will not only help them in the short term but give them skills that will help them get through difficult feelings when you are not there to support them.