Parents and Carers
Anxiety in secondary school and beyond can cause many of the same issues as in younger children, such as problems with sleep, school avoidance, or panic attacks. It can be a real worry and difficult to know what to do. Is it just a normal amount of stress or is it making your child sad, irritable, sleepless or angry? A lot of young people express their anxiety through anger, so you might just be noticing they are particularly rude or grumpy. Anxious people also often feel the need to control things – this might for example be in the form of superstitious rituals, tidying, rigid eating or being inflexible to changes in plans.
Physical symptoms such as palpitations or feeling sick are also common, caused by the excess of stress hormones in the body. In addition, there may be new issues such as self-harm, eating disorders, or depression.
The good news is that young people can learn techniques to allow them to cope better with anxiety and stress which will stand them in good stead as they grow up. These techniques can be self-taught (or learnt with parents), or might sometimes need the help of a counsellor. They can also start to work out what early warning signs of being overwhelmed feel like and what sorts of things help them- is it going for a walk, doing exercise, talking to someone, writing a journal, doing something creative or something else altogether? Learning how to cope with stressful and unpredictable events is a useful life skill. There are ideas below and, depending on the age of your child and how much time you have, even workbooks that you can do together.
Many schools have counsellors who are used to dealing with anxiety, being such a common problem in this age group. Have a look at our guide on counselling, including some options for online counselling (some detailed below).
Resources for Parents and Carers
- Overcoming your Child’s Fear and Worries: A self-help guide using Cognitive Behavioural Techniques.by Cathy Creswell and Lucy Willetts. Often recommended by CAMHS, discusses techniques for breaking problems down into smaller steps and using reward systems to help overcome fears and challenge negative thinking.
- Coping with an Anxious or Depressed Child by Dr Sam Cartwright-Hatton. Recommended by the Charity ‘Anxiety UK’
- Anxiety UK. How to start tackling anxiety from a parent’s perspective, some resources and background information. This charity also offers an online therapy course which you have to pay for.
- Tips on supporting your child with anxiety.
- Anxiety and Phobias in Children with Advice for Parents (includes some Advice on School Phobia)
- MindEd on Anxiety This website has detailed advice and information if you’d like to know more and some interesting videos.
For young people: do I have anxiety?
- Feeling anxious is a normal response to stresses such as exams and can help you get through them. It becomes a problem when it stops you from doing or enjoying things, starts to make you feel unhappy or even causes physical symptoms.
Stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol are useful if you need to cope with a short-term threat or stress (like running away from something or getting through an exam). Too much stress however can cause symptoms like feeling sick, vomiting, dizziness, a fast heartbeat, tight throat, difficulty breathing and even diarrhoea. Too much anxiety can stop you from sleeping or make it hard for you to concentrate.
- The Worry Tree – do your thoughts go round and round in circles thinking about things that have happened or might happen? Watch this video
- Quiz: Is Anxiety a Problem for Me?
Coping with anxiety and stress is all about finding what works for you. Exercise works for lots of people but it might be different for you. Look at the games and top tips section below to find some ideas and there’s more on our support pages.
Find out more about how anxiety and panic can affect the body
- YoungMinds Common symptoms of anxiety and some simple advice.
- Physical Symptoms, the Fight or Flight Response and the Causes of Anxiety. Ideas to help tackle anxiety, this also explains the different types of anxiety like generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), separation anxiety, social anxiety and more.
- Panic and Panic Attacks by MindMate. Recognising the signs of an oncoming attack and staying in control.
Helplines, games and top tips
- Childline: for all ages up to young adults Mood trackers, games, breathing exercises and videos, a helpline and a message board.
- Kooth Read about common problems and get advice. You can also have free online chats with a qualified counsellor. All ages – probably most suitable from about 12+ years but younger children could look at this with a parent.
- The Mix for young people with expert advice, blogs, message boards and personal stories. There is also a helpline and option for 1-2-1 e-mail support.
- No Panic national charity helping people who suffer from panic attacks, phobias, OCD and other forms of anxiety. Check out their Youth Hub and youth helpline for ages 13-20 yrs.
- Video made by two students talking about their anxieties (including someone with social anxiety) and how they learned to cope
- From Worrier to Warrior TED talk An inspiring talk about using anxiety to your advantage
- NHS Podcasts to help you manage your mood– maybe you fancy a podcast instead?