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Helping your child with anxiety

Te āwhina i tāku tamaiti mānawanawa

You can do a lot to help your anxious tamaiti (child).

Anxious tamariki (children) often have an anxious parent. If you struggle with anxiety, getting help for your own anxiety is a very important first step. It will help you teach your tamaiti to manage their anxiety in a healthy way. Treating their anxiety without addressing your own anxiety first is unlikely to change anything.

It’s important to understand how your tamaiti behaves when they're anxious. Different tamariki need different responses.

Anxious tamariki can generally be divided into two groups. Some tamariki want constant closeness with a parent when they're anxious. Others become defiant and develop difficult behaviour.

A tamaiti who seeks closeness when they're anxious mostly wants reassurance. It's very instinctive for a parent to provide reassurance. But if you do all the reassuring, your tamaiti will not learn how to soothe themselves. Parents can also get frustrated by this.

Teaching your tamaiti coping strategies is very important. If they can soothe themselves when they're feeling anxious, they will not need to rely on an adult.

Tamariki who become angry, defiant, or exhibit difficult behaviours need a different response. It's important to recognise that anxiety is at the heart of this behaviour. But what your tamaiti needs most is kind and consistent discipline. This will teach your tamaiti that you're in charge and can handle the problem that your tamaiti is struggling with.

Consequences and boundaries that are fair and consistent tell your tamaiti that the world is a predictable place that makes sense. Giving them a comforting sense of where they fit in will reduce their anxiety.

Balanced home

Getting the balance right in the home is important for anxious tamariki. Some of the basics of life might be out of balance and need adjusting.

The following areas of life are important for tamariki to thrive:

Help for different types of anxiety

The following resources may help you help your tamaiti with specific difficulties that could be making them anxious:

Mindfulness and relaxation

If your tamaiti child is struggling with anxiety, you might want to try mindfulness or guided meditation. The following internet-based programmes can help tamariki with anxiety. See below for a video with kids talking about mindfulness.

Online self-help

Anxiety Canada has online resources for parents to work through with their tamariki children . The goal is to provide parents and tamariki with new skills for responding to anxious thoughts in more healthy ways. You can work through the material at home with your tamariki. You can also help them work through the anxiety action program.


  HealthInfo recommends the following videos

  HealthInfo recommends the following pages

On the next page: Getting help for my child with anxiety

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed November 2021.


See also:

Tips for improving behaviour in tamariki (children)

Page reference: 538750

Review key: HIAXC-538744