The continuing stress, fear, and uncertainty created by COVID-19 pandemic have had a profound and devastating effect on many children and teens. Our young people are having a challenging time coping emotionally. My hypnotherapy client base ranges from age 10 to 70 years plus. Disturbingly the number of clients I’m seeing from the younger age bracket displaying anxiety and emotional symptoms is rapidly rising,
It is the hidden pandemic. I fear along with other mental health professionals, that unless it is addressed it will trigger life long mental health problems; for the vulnerable developing minds of our young people. The problem is further compounded by specialist services like CAMHS (Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services) who are experiencing long waiting lists of up to 3 months and more.
It is worth acknowledging that young people’s mental health, and rising anxiety was on the increase prior to the pandemic. We all accept that puberty can stir up a plethora of challenging and baffling emotions and behaviours. Currently though we need to acknowledge the hidden epidemic of rising anxiety in children and adolescents and how to resolve it.
Some of the triggers for escalating anxiety in our young people
- Covid-19 related issues- fear, isolation from peer groups, lack of academic motivation, fear of death.
- Social media…spending too long on social media platforms can exacerbate feelings of inadequacy, anxiety, lack of confidence and increased peer group bullying.
- Anxiety around the future of the planet.
- Divorcing parents.
- Death of a family member.
- Changing circumstances such as moving house or school.
- Lack of confidence – academically or other specific issues.
It’s important to remember that these tender developing minds and the imagination are like giant emotional sponges. Sucking up and absorbing the underlying tension, fear and panic from the media and other influential platforms. These youngsters have yet to develop the tools and coping strategies to deal with stress in the long term.
Signs to look out for
Your child and adolescent may be displaying anxiety with the following symptoms:
- Are they struggling to get to school? Are they complaining of symptoms such as feeling sick, headaches, tummy aches that prevent them from going in to school?
- Is their course work and overall performance suffering?
- Are night times difficult with disturbed sleeping patterns i.e. they can’t get to sleep or keep waking up, or are more fearful at bedtime?
- Does your child display out of proportion fear and anxiety about the health of a family member?
- Is the young person, withdrawing for longer and longer periods from the family and avoiding social situations and conversation?
- Are they preoccupied and apprehensive with a tendency to worry about the future and other matters?
- Have they stopped exercising and their eating habits changed to extreme over eating or underrating?
The above may be signs they are struggling.
How you can help
- Be aware of any changes in their development or behaviour.
- Understand that your teenager and child may try to hide their emotions because they don’t know how to express their anxious and confusing feelings.
- Some children and adolescents may need more time to express their feelings. Give them space for gradual conversations and other activities besides talking, such as painting or drawing to express themselves and manage stress.
- Others might be more comfortable with direct conversations or activities. Be mindful of the right time to approach the conversation. For example not as soon as they come in from school, or you are rushed for time.
- Refrain from telling them what to do. Instead gently keep unpicking how they are feeling and why they think they may be feeling like this. Listen without interrupting.
- Steer away from fixing it. It’s so hard to see our children upset. Help them to resolve the problem and come to a decision as to how they want to be helped. Enable them to develop their own coping strategies which will give them life -long tools for the future.
- Avoid taking their distanced behaviour personally, remain as objective as you can. Remember growing up is not easy, they are coping with ever changing emotions, friendships and hormonal changes.
- Practice mindfulness breathing exercises together, learning to stay in the present moment is incredibly beneficial.
How Hypnotherapy Helps
I enjoy immensely working with young people and as an experienced therapist; using hypnotherapy, EMDR and NLP, visualisation and other creative tools is a successful approach to apply. Young people are receptive to quickly and willing to want to ease these debilitating feelings of anxiety, fear and confidence issues.
Usually it is a three phase method. In my practice I apply the following age appropriate approach for the young person.
- By addressing the cause – Building rapport and sensitively unpicking the underlying issue. What is preventable, what are their expectations of themselves and how do they think others perceive them.
- Reducing the pressure – By finding tangible solutions to change the way they are feeling and getting back in control.
- Through hypnosis and visualisation sensitively guiding the subconscious mind, the seat of our emotions and behaviours, to gently know that they can feel more relaxed. To understand the tasks, obligations situations and expectations are more realistic and controllable.
Hypnotherapy for anxiety and stress is generally a quick and effective approach. By giving the young person the confidence to be able to choose realistically how to manoeuvre through life more comfortably letting go of unwanted patterns, fears and anxieties.