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Dealing with anxiety

Whilst broadly speaking, nine year olds are pretty comfortable in their own skin; some do get anxious about their personalities, their abilities, their talents etc. You may have even heard your child put themselves down, or perhaps make negative comments about their abilities - for example, an emotional exclamation of "I'm no good at that!"

Whilst it is of course upsetting to witness, this sort of behaviour is actually quite common.

Nine year olds are typically anxious to please everyone - their family, their teachers, their friends and so on; so if they feel they are failing in some way, they will often get upset.

Additionally, nine year olds have a strong need to be liked and really want to fit in - this of course can also cause anxiety.

How should you handle it?

Try not to dismiss your child's anxiety out of hand. Instead try to take the time to understand what's really going on.

Typically at this age anxiety stems from a couple of sources; the most common of which I've explored below (although of course this is by no means an exhaustive list - you may find that your child's anxiety stems from something else altogether):

  • Fear of failure 

You can't be good at everything, but for some children fear of failure can stop them even trying. It may be anxiety about academic skills like mathematics, reading etc, or perhaps anxiety about sport.

Here the maximum of ‘If at first you don't succeed, try and try again' springs to mind. It's important that your child understands that you don't expect them to be the ‘best' at everything, but trying hard is what you really value.

Try to bolster their confidence by pointing out the things that they are good at too.

  • Problems with school work

Aside from a fear of failure, it may be that your child is having some very real problems with their school work. If this is the case I'd advise both speaking to the school, and perhaps seeing if there is anything else you can do to help them.

  • Problems with friends

Children at this age do tend fall in and out of friendships, but it can be nonetheless upsetting. Be as supportive as you can, perhaps try to foster new friendships by encouraging your child to invite children over for tea after school.

Of course you may fear that there is a more serious situation developing. If you are concerned that your child is being bullied it's a good idea to speak to the school.

Whatever your child's anxiety is stemming from, be supportive. Ask open questions to make sure you understand what it is that's upsetting them. Then discuss some ways they might try to overcome those feelings.

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