Anxiety disorders top mental health issues in the UAE and children are not immune.
Liam Kelly, a teacher from Diyafah International School in Abu Dhabi is the author and creator of the Worried William Project and, having suffered from anxiety and bulimia himself as a child, is fully aware of how hard it can be on both the child and on their parents.
“No worry is too big or too small,” says Kelly who is an active children’s mental health campaigner.
He also explains that it is perfectly normal for children to feel worried as they are growing up, but it is how it’s handled that is critical.
“It is so important that parents support them through these challenging times.”
But what are the key challenges that a primary school child faces?
“School children will generally worry about spellings tests, end of term exams or friendship circles,” says Kelly.
“And it’s so important that parents listen to the worry first and foremost. Then when the child is ready, try to talk about the reasons behind the worry.”
Kelly shares his top tips on supporting your child if you think they may be anxious.
When a child is experiencing a particular worry, they generally want a safe environment that they can talk about the things that is on their mind. Children will be more willing to talk if they have you beside them comforting them. All they want is you and your time.
By reassuring your child that you are always there for them will give your child confidence that they can talk to you about their worry. Children need to know that they can trust you when they talk about things to you.
Highlight the positives
When a child is worrying about a particular aspect of their day, they can feel like everything is very negative. If your child is still reluctant to tell you about their worry, praise something that they are doing. This positive remake can make all the difference and it can reassure your child that they can trust you.
Show care and understanding
It is a massive task for a child to tell you what is worrying them. This act by the child should confirm that they trust you and they need to be praised for talking to you. It’s always best to listen to what they are saying so that you can begin to understand what is worrying your child. This shows the child that you care.
Be a great role model
During the life of a child, they will act in certain ways and that more often, these mannerisms come from the adults closest to them. During your time with your child, be mindful how you deal with situations because this will be mirrored in their actions of dealing with challenges.