Learn new techniques to help ease anxiety in youngsters

Upset depressed young woman lying on couch feeling strong headache migraine, sad tired drowsy teenag

CBT techniques can help to tackle anxiety in young people - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

I must confess, summer holidays are a juggle as a working parent, and my kids end up spending a good chunk of it in holiday clubs! Luckily, they love these fun, sporty, informal spaces and mostly bound in excited for the day ahead, but on the first day this year both my children were feeling pretty anxious…

This made me think of the Summer Programme we are running at Sidmouth Youth Centre this year, funded through DYS Space.

We have planned lots of fun and new activities for our young people to take part in this summer, like climbing and zorbing, cooking and paddle boarding! We are thrilled that our exciting programme line-up has attracted many new young people to the centre, and are looking forward to the many ‘firsts’ and exciting experiences that our staff and young people can bond over and share together. All these first times and new experiences come with excitement, but also, for all in some way, nerves and anxiety.

Within my Wellbeing Practitioner role for Young Devon, when delivering Parent-Led CBT we talk a lot about anxiety. Often, our first response to anxiety in our children is to reassure them, using phrases such as “You’ll be fine…” or “Don’t worry darling, you’ll have a great time when you get there!” But, whilst these sentences are very normal and instinctive, as a parent it can be helpful to think about alternatives.

There are several alternative responses to anxiety that could be helpful to children, instead of reassurance. One response could be in the form of asking questions, for example a simple “Tell me more about that…” perhaps “What do you feel worried about?” or “How does that make you feel in your body?” Another useful response could be making an extra effort to notice and give loud and clear praise of brave behaviour, like “Wow! You were worried about going to that camp, but you were really brave and gave it a go! Well done…” or using encouraging phrases like “How about just give it a go and see?”

Where reassurance can drive reliance on outside input to feel secure and confident to face a potential stressful situation, adding in some of these alternative responses can help the child find that security and confidence from within themselves; building up their own sense of being able to build resilience.

I hope these CBT techniques reduce your children's 'summer scaries', and help them to let loose and have fun this month.