Anxiety in children

Natural ways to help

Health expert Janella Purcell offers expert advice

Q. I have a six-year-old who suffers from anxiety. He gets very nervous in new situations and it makes things very difficult. He is even too anxious to take rescue remedy! Any tips on calming him down? And foods or other that can help?

A. Something is bothering him. Has he spoken to a professional therapist? Perhaps the school counsellor, or even a family member he trusts? Sometimes children are more likely to talk to someone else rather than their parents. He may talk to a stranger before you. As I don’t now your family situation, it’s difficult to know what is causing his anxiety, and therefore know how to get to the cause. So let’s deal with some ways to reduce it.

Have you thought about getting him into some form of exercise that will get him out of his head? One that will make him smile. This may sound out there but tap dancing is what comes to mind. Many young boys are into it now and it’s a great way to release some of that pent up energy. It’s also a great workout so he’ll be too exhausted to be anxious after an hour class.  

And what about Buteyko breathing? He may be a ‘nose breather’ so could be suffering from lack of oxygen. This a beautiful technique that will teach him how to breathe deeply, right into his abdomen. It is calming and rejuvenating. Or even tai qi or qi gong.

Is he spending too much time in front of screens? These are TV, computers, MP3’s, Ipads etc. It’s a good idea to restrict this to only an hour a day or better still only on the weekends.

Dietary suggestions – perhaps it’s what needs to be taken out rather than left in. His blood sugar could be a problem, contributing to his anxiety. Of course, all refined white sugar and flour need to be reduced or preferably avoided. Instead, get him onto whole grains, and complex sugars if he likes something sweet. Grains like oats, spelt or rye sourdough bread, and sweeteners like raw honey, coconut palm sugar, maple syrup and agave. Avoid all sugars before bed, however.

Ensure he is eating lots of different vegies and at least one or two pieces of fruit a day. Include good sources of protein in his diet to help stabilise his blood sugar. Things like tempeh (especially good for the anxious child), legumes, sustainable fish, miso soup and organic chicken if you aren’t vegetarians.
Try burning some essential oils like bergamot, lavender, vetiver or frankincense. Or put a few drops on his pillow.

Got a question? Email with Ask Janella in the subject line.

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