Children and Anxiety

Dr. Lynn Miller, Associate Professor (UBC) and Registered Psychologist, describes what anxiety looks like in children.  Anxiety involves our thinking (‘self-talk’), physical feelings in our bodies (‘body clues’), and how we respond or react when distressed or anxious (behaviours).  The Fun FRIENDS Program addresses all these aspects of anxiety, by teaching children how to have more brave and confident ‘green’ thoughts, how to calm down their bodies, and how to take small brave steps. Anxious thoughts involve apprehension of what may happen in the future.  Young children may not be able to express these concepts easily.  Anxiety is a normal part of life; it becomes an impediment when it interferes with making decisions, such as fear of going to day care or to visit a friend because of unexpressed anxiety that your parent may not come to get you afterwards.

Click here to go to Child-Youth website (for parents of children and youth aged 9-13).  There is also an 'early years' website for parents of children ages 4 - 7 years—Fun FRIENDS, which includes video clips of children sharing their worries, parents using Fun FRIENDS at home, Kindergarten and Grade 1 teachers using Fun FRIENDS in the classroom.

The Fun FRIENDS “Steps” are:

  • F: Feelings (talk about your feelings and care about others’ feelings)
    • “My body gives me clues to help me know how I’m feeling.  I can recognize that I’m feeling worried because my palms are sweaty, I have butterflies in my stomach, my heart is beating fast, and I need to go to the bathroom.  This is my body’s way of telling me it is time to do something to calm down!”
    • R: Relax (do “milkshake” breathing, have some quiet time)
      • “I can do milkshake breathing, practice relaxation, have fun times and quiet times too.”
      • I:  I can try! (we all do our best)
        • “I can think of more helpful GREEN thoughts, such as ‘I can do it’, and ‘It doesn’t matter as long as I try my best.’”
        • E: Encourage (step-by-step plans)
          • “I can learn new things and try new things that are hard for me.  I’ll take small ‘baby’ steps and try new things so I can feel really proud of myself.  Making a Step Plan will help me.  I can reward myself for each step I climb.”
          • N: Nurture (quality time together doing fun activities)
            • “There are many special people in my life.  They can help me in lots of ways.  My family, my friends and my teachers can all help me learn and try new things.”
            • D: Don’t forget – be brave! (practice skills every day with friends and family)
              • “I can use the FRIENDS plan to feel confident and brave about all sorts of things.  I can practice my relaxation games so that when I feel tense and stiff, I can relax my muscles straight away.  I can also practice GREEN thoughts.”
              • S: Smile!  Stay calm for life! (stay happy)
                • “I can stay cool and calm, because I know the steps of the FRIENDS plan, which will help me to be confident and brave.”

Click here to download ‘Fun FRIENDS:  Information for Parents/Guardians’ PDF.

The pdf includes twelve sessions, each including sections on Concepts, Skills & Strategies and Tips for Parents

  • Session 1: Getting Started
  • Session 2: My Feelings (F = Feelings)
  • Session 3: Your Feelings: I will help (F = Feelings)
  • Session 4: Our bodies and relaxation games (R = Relax)
  • Session 5: Red and green thinking (I = I can try!)
  • Session 6: Changing ‘Red’ Thoughts into ‘Green’ Thoughts (I = I can try!)
  • Session 7: Learning to set goals and trying new things (E = Encourage)
  • Session 8: Learning how to be a good friend
  • Session 9: Learning about rewarding ourselves
  • Session 10: Learning about role models in our lives (N = Nurture)
  • Session 11: Learning about Support Teams in our lives (D = Don’t Forget to Practice)
  • Session 12: Dress up party! (S = Smile! Stay calm for life!)