Helping children cope with anxiety

Growing up is hard to do and coping with anxiety doesn’t help.

Mother and SonAnxiety is one of the most commonly experienced psychological problems in primary-school aged children.  It is characterised by feelings of fear, unease and panic, though symptoms and levels of severity can differ from person to person.

People of all ages can suffer from anxiety.

Children can build resilience to anxiety a number of ways, including support from their parents.

But is a mother’s support better than a father’s support, depending on the gender of the child?

Dr Mandy Matthewson’s latest research project, Exploring Parental Influence on Childhood Anxiety and Self-Efficacy, aims to find out.

She has previously investigated how the support of mums and dads relates to anxiety in boys and girls. Her research found that high levels of support from fathers influenced resilience to anxiety in both sons and daughters.

Dr Matthewson also found a cross-gendered relationship between parent-child communication and children’s anxiety is beneficial. This suggests effective communication from mothers helps resilience to anxiety in sons and support from fathers helps daughters cope.

“This relationship also appears to be mediated by parents’ own levels of anxiety,” Dr Matthewson said.

Dr Matthewson’s project will build this research and further investigate mothers’ and fathers’ levels of communication, involvement and self-efficacy (coping strategies) and the effect this has on their children’s experiences of coping with anxiety.

“Through questionnaires and interviews, we hope to more clearly define why and how mothers and fathers each influence their children’s coping and resilience to anxiety.

“The project will examine, among other things, whether there are differences in the way mothers and fathers are involved with and communicate with their sons and daughters,” Dr Matthewson said.

“We will also look at whether parents’ own coping strategies influence their children’s anxiety and self-efficacy in different ways, depending on the gender of the child in relation to the parent.”

Participants: Biological mothers and fathers who live with their children aged between eight to 12 are being sought for this study. Participants (parents and children) will be asked to fill in questionnaires.

For more information or to become involved in the study, please email [email protected]

The UTAS Psychology Clinic offers support for people suffering from anxiety or other psychological conditions. For more information or to make an appointment call: (03) 6226 2805.