Social anxiety, depression, eating disorders, exam nerves, confidence issues…
Just like adults, children and young people can get worried and anxious. However, if your child’s anxiety is starting to affect their well-being and is getting in the way of their everyday life, they may need some help to overcome it.
Severe anxiety can harm a young person’s mental and emotional wellbeing, affecting their self-esteem and confidence. They may become withdrawn and go to great lengths to avoid things or situations that make them feel anxious.
When young children feel anxious, it is often difficult for them to express or even understand why and what they’re feeling. You may notice that they become irritable, tearful or clingy, have difficulty sleeping, wake in the night, start wetting the bed or have nightmares.
In older children you may notice them begin to display a lack of confidence in trying new things or seem unable to face everyday challenges. They may find it hard to concentrate, have problems with sleeping or eating, they may be prone to angry or aggressive outbursts, suffer negative thoughts or keep thinking that bad things are going to happen. They may begin to avoid everyday activities, such as seeing friends, going out in public or going to school.
Of course, some children are more prone to worries and anxiety than others. Some may find change difficult and become anxious following a house move or starting a new school. Children who have had a distressing or traumatic experience may suffer with anxiety afterwards, the same as any adult. Family conflicts can also leave children feeling insecure and anxious.
Teenagers are more likely to suffer with social anxiety than other age groups, especially in light of the social media epidemic where cyber bullying and intimidation can be rife. As a result they may begin avoiding social gatherings or making excuses to get out of them.
If a child or young person is experiencing anxiety, there is a lot parents and carers can do to help.
It’s important to talk to your child about their anxiety or worries, reassuring them and showing you understand how they feel and helping them to find solutions focusing on the positive rather than the negative.
The active and vivid imagination that children naturally possess may help make them receptive to the alternative-medical approach known as hypnotherapy, or clinical hypnosis.
In hypnotherapy your child will be taught relaxation techniques which will help them to manage their reactions to stress, anxiety and worry. Relaxation is a wonderful distraction from worrying thoughts as relaxing the mind reduces tension in the body. Techniques shown include controlled breathing, muscle relaxation and guided imagery.
Long, deep controlled breaths slow down the breathing rate and helps you to relax. Muscle relaxation involves practicing tensing and relaxing different muscles in the body. This helps children to recognise the difference between tense and relaxed muscles.
Children can close their eyes and listen to the voice of a hypnotherapist guiding them through a soothing and calm imaginary scene. Children can also make up their own soothing image. For example, this could be a favourite place that makes them feel calm focusing on what they can see, hear or smell so as to create a strong positive image.
We always ask for the parent or carer to be present when a child or young person is having a hypnotherapy session. This not only creates a feeling of safety and security but it also helps the parent or carer understand the process so that relaxation techniques can be taken home and practiced.
Gail Marra D.Hyp MNCH (Acc) LAPHP is a GHR registered Clinical Hypnotherapist accredited by the National Council for Hypnotherapy, Association for Professional Hypnosis and Psychotherapy, National Register of Psychotherapists and Counsellors and the Complimentary and Natural Healthcare Council
10 Harley Street, London W1G 9PF Tel: 020 7873 2051
The Chilston Clinic, Royal Tunbridge Wells TN4 8RA Tel: 01892 513535