If you've been feeling more anxious or noticed your child may be more anxious than before, you aren't alone. Trellis Family Resource Network Early Childhood Development Specialist Natasha Kavanagh explained she's seen an increase in anxiety for both children and adults, which could be attributed to long periods of isolation during the pandemic, among other potential factors. Increased stress and anxiety could create difficulties for some, and Kavanagh hopes to help parents learn how to guide their children through anxiety through the Fear-Less Triple P program.

Fear-Less is both an online and in-person program for parents to teach them strategies and ways to help their child with anxiety. One of the big ways a parent can help is to teach children that anxiety is a normal part of life, and not always a bad thing. If you believe feeling anxious is wrong it could compound the issue, as you now feel additional anxiety on top of the original source of anxiety.

"Anxiety is a really normal helpful response system that we have. No matter what age you are it's there and it's activated in certain situations to help you to protect yourself from any sort of perceived threat or danger. So, it really doesn't matter what age you are, if there's something that you're perceiving as a bit of a scary situation, your body is going to respond in that kind of way," she said.

What can be especially helpful for parents trying to help their children is to try and consider things from their point of view. For example, things like going to the dentist or going to school may be fine as an adult, but for children that may not have done that yet or done it enough to feel comfortable, it could be a major source of anxiety. 

"When you couple that with maybe having a few years where they haven't been to school or haven't had some of the opportunities that they might have had, had we not been in a pandemic, that might have looked a bit different for them," she added.

What's equally as helpful as learning ways to help your child is learning how to work through anxiety yourself, as Kavanagh said children often learn by example from their parents, so knowing how to handle anxiety for yourself first can develop your child's response as well. On top of that, if you learn more about how you respond to anxiety and how you can manage it, you may be able to pick up on when your child is feeling anxious even if they don't say it.

"Developing and increasing our emotional language can be a really big support for our children. Because sometimes if you (the child) don't know what you're trying to communicate, it's really difficult to have your voice heard and to know that someone is hearing you." 

The Fear-Less program is one of several programs Trellis offers in the Triple P set, which stands for Positive Parenting Program. You can find more information about Trellis at https://www.growwithtrellis.ca or contact Kavanagh at nkavanagh@growwithtrellis.ca to learn more about Fear-Less. The next sessions of the online Fear-Less program are on April 17 and 24.

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