Mental Wellness in Children

by Tara Worth, Child and Youth Worker

Lately, you notice that your child has been complaining about an upset tummy, headaches and feeling dizzy. They have trouble sleeping at night, seem constantly worried and try to avoid school and their favourite activities. They need constant reassurance, freeze in certain situations and there have more tears than usual. Sound familiar?

More of our kids than ever are showing signs of anxiety and stress in their daily lives. In New Westminster, local parents and school staff report an exhaustive list of possible causes… being over-scheduled, social media, divorce, friendship woes, performance pressure, school, unstable family life, bullying, parental stress, lack of coping strategies, separation from their primary caregiver and irrational fears.

As a parent/caregiver, one can feel helpless trying to provide support to their child struggling with anxiety.  It can turn family plans upside down, interfere with your work schedule, start arguments and result in missed opportunities. A typically easy-going child can morph into a stubborn, irrational and crying mess. You may feel powerless, ineffective and lost. How can you support your child through this and navigate your way through it all?

First and foremost, it is important to talk to your family doctor or visit a walk-in clinic. The doctor will be able to do a full exam to rule out any non-anxiety based physical problems. They can complete an assessment and diagnose an anxiety disorder if there is one.

Thankfully, there are many resources that are available for children with anxiety. Support can be found in four different areas: Community agencies, school programs, online resources and apps, and tools/strategies that can be taught to be used when a child is feeling anxious.

In New West, we are fortunate to have quite a few local agencies that offer support for children with anxiety:

Child and Youth Mental Health
#201-1065 Columbia St, New Westminster
Self-referral drop-ins are available on Tuesdays between 12-4.

Cameray Child and Family Services
5623 Imperial St, Burnaby
604-436-9449 or visit for a referral form
Offers up to 12 free sessions for families and children with mental health concerns

Purpose Society
40 Begbie St, New Westminster
Links Family Therapy can provide family counselling and parenting information for New Westminster families with children who have a mental health diagnosis for up to 12 months.

Family Services of Greater Vancouver
321 6th St, New Westminster
offers a sliding scale and provides counselling programs and support services to families.

2nd floor 519 7th St, New Westminster
604-522-3722 (ext 101)
Perspectives Youth and Family Outreach can support children and youth who are struggling with anxiety and are self-medicating with substances.
Can self-refer

Angels of Anxiety
A holistic approach in healing anxiety focusing on nutrition, aromatherapy and reiki.
contact Petrina 604-209-7875

If you are looking for an online resource at your fingertips, Anxiety BC is a wealth of information. This website has support for children and youth, parents and educators. It can direct you to treatment options, downloadable resources and self-help strategies. There is audio for breathing and mindfulness exercises, videos for parents/caregivers, and a link to the MindShift App for teens to use on their phones. Teens also have their own section on the site which features support for situations and fears that are specific for them. Go Zen! is another useful online tool geared specifically for younger children. The site provides anxiety relief programs that are taught via animated videos. Kids can watch entertaining cartoons to learn skills of resilience and well-being. Articles such as “50 Calm Down Techniques” are also featured on the site.

Finally, there are lots of tools and strategies that you can teach your child to use when they are feeling anxious. “Four square breathing” slows the physical sensations and rapid breathing that someone may be experiencing when feeling panicked. To do this, picture breathing in the shape of a square. Slowly breathe in for 2 seconds, hold for 2 seconds, breathe out for 2 seconds and rest for 2 seconds. Repeat until you feel calm.

“5,4,3,2,1” is a grounding technique that can be used anywhere. To use this tool, have your child do the following:

5: Acknowledge FIVE things they can see.

4: Acknowledge FOUR things they can touch.

3: Acknowledge THREE things they can hear.

2: Acknowledge TWO things they can smell:

  1. Acknowledge ONE thing they can taste.

These five steps are a way to help a them be in the “now”, and stop thoughts from flooding their brain, which can prevent a panic attack.

Lastly, mediation is a great tool that kids and teens may find useful. This is something that you can do together, or on their own. There are numerous meditation resources that are online, here are a few to get you started: