Aussie Kids Are Increasingly Anxious. Here's Why.

The cause could be closer to home than you might think.

Increasingly, Australian children and teenagers are experiencing anxiety at levels that are impacting on their mental health, school achievement and happiness. As a loving parent you naturally want to prevent your child or young person from being overwhelmed by anxiety.

There are four main reasons your child maybe experiencing anxiety.

1. You're passing your stress on

Anxiety is a function of groups -- it rarely happens in isolation. Many parents I meet in my work are stressed by their lives and fearful for their children. The contagious nature of anxiety means that parents pass their stresses, worries and fears on to their children.

Prominent psychologist Martin Seligman found through his research that children have a significant propensity to mimic their primary parents’ explanatory styles by the age of eight years. If parents see events through the frame of stress, anxiety and fear then they are passing this same frame on to their children.

2. Your child is overloaded

Few would argue that an active child is a healthy child. It seems that we now have too much of a good thing as Australian kids have a smorgasbord of organised preschool and after-school activities to keep their minds and bodies active.

Many of these activities have a high performance element attached (get that badge, win that game, attain that level) so that kids are always striving or attaining. The pressure to perform is always there. Activity overload is a real problem for achievement-driven, anxious types of kids -- which are first-born child characteristics.

3. Your child doesn’t play enough

Play is the release valve for the pressures of a high performance, serious life. It’s the way kids have always relaxed and let off steam. The best type of play for relaxing and letting off steam is generally physical and done outside. Your child may play a great deal on a digital device, but this activity stimulates the brain rather than rejuvenates it.

Organised sport doesn’t fit the play category if it adds to their anxiety rather than releases it. Kids need to be involved in play that’s fun, rejuvenating and enjoyable. They need to look forward to it rather than fear it.

Be aware organised sport can be a source of stress and tension. Image: Getty.
4. Your child focuses too much on the future

Some children are born to worry. They fret about seemingly simple activities such starting a new school-term, going to a birthday party, or who’s picking them from school at the end of the day.

Worriers are future-oriented, anxious about things that haven’t happened yet. These type A anxious types don’t know how to stay in the present. Their minds constantly wander ahead to what may happen. They benefit from learning relaxation techniques such as mindfulness and deep breathing that anchor them to the present, temporarily releasing them from their worries and anxieties. When kids learn these techniques from a young age or even during adolescence they are likely to become hard-wired for life.

Parents are well placed to support children when they become anxious. Start by looking at your own lifestyle and make changes to alleviate the stresses that maybe trickling down to your kids.

Make sure they experience plenty of play and relaxation activities so they can relax and unwind. Most importantly, give kids the opportunity to recognise, manage and cope with their anxiousness so they have autonomy over their own mental health and well-being.

Feature image: Getty.