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My child worries a lot – should I be worried?

Some kids are afraid of the dark.
Some kids are scared of dogs.
Some kids develop a tummy ache on their first day of school.
And some teenagers experience worry around exam time.

Worry is a pretty normal part of our lives.

Feeling a bit anxious is a natural reaction to a stressful or dangerous situation – everyone worries from time to time. But sometimes, your child’s or teenager’s worries become more severe and can start to interfere with their everyday life.

You may find yourself thinking, my child worries a lot – should I be worried?

Or you begin to notice a change in their behaviour where little things trigger a really big response that leaves you feeling quite concerned; their coping skills seem to be a bit out of whack.

You might notice that they are:

  • constantly worrying that bad things may happen
  • avoiding playing with friends or attending birthday parties
  • complaining of pains in the tummy or head, or feeling sick (they spend a lot of time in sick bay at school)
  • having difficulty falling asleep
  • having difficulty concentrating in class
  • having lots of tantrums, meltdowns or acting out
  • are tearful and being generally very moody.

The tricky thing about worry is that your child won’t necessarily know how to communicate when they’re worried about something – instead, you might see a change in their behaviour.

As a GP, I often see families who are having concerns about their child’s behaviour or learning at school and it turns out that anxiety is the cause. Other times, it’s quite obvious that the source of the worry is to do with friendship issues or trouble at home, for example.

As a parent, there are a number of ways that you can help your child out if they seem to be worrying a lot:

  1. Keep the lines of communication open. Keeping the lines of communication open so that your child knows they can talk to you is key. It’s important that you don’t dismiss your child’s very real feelings with a ‘she’ll be right, don’t worry’ attitude. No matter how small the matter might seem, listening carefully without judgment and showing empathy helps your child to feel validated and heard.
  2. Mindfulness and meditation techniques. Teaching kids relaxation via breathing exercises or listening to soft music to help calm them down is a wonderful tool, along with simple meditation techniques. The wonderful free app Smiling Minds (www.smilingmind.com.au) takes your child through age appropriate guided meditations – the whole family can get involved with this!
  3. Speak to your child’s teacher. It’s helpful to have a chat to your child’s teacher to see if they’ve noticed any changes in behaviour. Make sure you inform your child’s teacher if you have any concerns over bullying, either in person or online.
  4. Talk to your GP. Reaching out to your GP is really important. There are lots of support services out there that your GP can link you in with.

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