Awhi is still in development, we'd love your feedback and suggestions. Let us know.

Awhi Ngā Mātua graphicAwhi Ngā Mātua Logo

Help! How can I prevent my anxiety hurting my child?

An orange shape for decoration.Cover image for Help! How can I prevent my anxiety hurting my child?

If anxiety has had a negative impact on your own life, it’s natural not to want your child to struggle too.

Everyone feels anxious at some point in their lives – the key is not to prevent anxiety altogether, but rather to manage it effectively.

Young children are sponges who can internalise behaviours and attitudes. Managing your own anxiety can be so hard, if you're able to though you can help to show your children how to manage theirs.

So how do I do that?

First, recognise the key components to your anxiety – worrying excessively, pessimistic thoughts, perfectionistic tendencies, exaggerating problems, being overly concerned with other people’s opinions.

**Learn how to self soothe **– challenge your pessimistic thinking. Ask yourself if there is any real basis to your fears. And if ‘the worst’ happens, what could you do about it? Would it really be so bad?

Be aware when your ‘inner-voice’ has become self-sabotaging.  Talk to yourself as kindly and reassuringly as you would to your child. Become your own ally, adviser and supporter.

Build your own confidence and resilience. Model the behaviours and attitudes you want your children to have.

Be open about your anxiety – you don’t want your children to think it’s something to be ashamed of, but rather, it’s just another aspect of who you are. Anxiety is no big deal, as long as we learn how to cope with it and get on with our lives.

Prioritise self-care. Yes, it’s stating the obvious, but cutting back on alcohol, caffeine and getting enough sleep is important for wellbeing. Think about what else makes you feel good - connecting with friends, spending time on a hobby, walking on the beach – and think about what gets in the way of you doing those things.

Key Messages for parents

Children are very sensitive to your feelings and reactions, so it’s important not to give your child the message that their anxiety is worrying to you. They may decide that this means there’s something seriously wrong with them.

Take a curious, rather than emotional approach when asking your child about what frightens them and why.

Don’t ask your child repeatedly how they’re feeling, or send them texts asking them where they are, or use a GPS locator to pinpoint their whereabouts. You and they need to be okay with sometimes NOT KNOWING.

Don’t protect your child from challenges. This will only undermine their self-confidence in pursuing goals. It may also lead to them relying on others to keep them safe.

Help your child embrace their shortcomings as well as their strengths.

Remember, even small behavioural changes on your part, modelling how to handle anxiety, can positively influence your child.

Be supportive, but don’t over-praise your child. When they’re away from you and praise is not so forthcoming, their self-esteem may suffer as well as their trust in your judgement.

Too much reassurance can also be undermining, as children become less able to handle doubt, and ironically, more anxious in the process!

Never be sarcastic or critical to your child. Let them know we all make mistakes and ask them what they could do differently next time.

Share your stories of your own failures and struggles. Make sure you let them know you re-framed them as an opportunity to learn and grow.

Retain your highest praise for when your child manages to do something hard despite their anxiety, rather than pursuing an ‘anxiety-free’ life!

Encourage your child to tell you about how they overcame a challenge and how that made them feel.

Every child needs to learn how to cope with disappointment and failure. The only thing any of us truly have control over is our own attitude and behaviour.

Key Messages for children

  • Making mistakes and feeling embarrassed are normal – just as much as having fun and being happy!
  • Taking risks is a good thing – they make you braver and stronger.
  • Nobody’s perfect. Who’d want to be?
  • No-one knows what’s going to happen tomorrow, next week or next year – and that’s okay.
  • Don’t avoid doing things just because they make you feel a little scared. YOU’RE in control of your life, NOT your anxiety.

Finally, encourage your child to not only have a kind and compassionate attitude towards themselves, but also to everyone else in their lives.

Remember this phrase **‘I’m doing the best I can with what I have, and so is everyone else’. **Make it your motto, as well as your child’s!

For more on anxiety, other articles are available on Awhi Nga Matua. You might also find the resources below useful, which includes, books from the IHC Library, as well as helpful websites and helpline contacts. Or contact the IHC library direct to have a chat about what you need on 0800 442 442 or email:

Helpful websites:
Time Timers available at
Depression NZ:

Anxiety New Zealand: 0800 269 4389 (0800 ANXIETY)
1737: Free call or text 1737 to talk to a trained counsellor 0800 111 757 or text 4202
Kidsline (for people up to 18 years): 0800 543 754
Whats Up (for 5 to 18-year-olds): 0800 942 8787 , Web chat, email chat or free text 5626
Youthline: 0800 376 633, free text 234, email
Lifeline: 0800 543 354
Samaritans: 0800 726 666
Suicide Crisis helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) 


Worry-proofing your anxious child /

If your child too often:...

The no worries guide to raising your...

This two-in-one handbook...

The no worries guide to raising your...

This two-in-one handbook...

Overcoming anxiety in children and teens /

The key to this book is...

Healthy mindsets for little kids :

This flexible,...

Helping your child with worry and anxiety /

How to parent your anxious toddler /

Why does your toddler get...

How to parent your anxious toddler /

This accessible guide...

Starving the anger gremlin for children...

Help children to understand...

Starving the anger gremlin for children...

Help children to understand...

Skylight Trust :

Skylight Trust supports...

Relaxation guides for kids :

"Whatever your personal...

Anxiety :

Learn about anxiety, signs...

Anxiety NZ :

"Anxiety New Zealand Trust...

Author's profile image

Meryl Richards

I’m Meryl Richards. What a pleasure it’s been to join the Awhi team. I get to spend my days researching information that supports me as a parent, and sometimes challenges me to rethink what I thought I knew. My hope is that it will be useful to you too. I live in Kapiti with my partner and two teenage boys, and spend as much time as possible in the surrounding bush and at the beach.

Awhi Article

Updated: 11 August 2023

Was this resource helpful to you?

A skeleton of three lines.A skeleton of four lines.
An illustration of people sitting in a row.

Join the conversation

Sign up to the Awhi Ngā Mātua community and get access to a welcoming community of parents

Join us on instagram for a kaputī
Awhi footer background image.
Awhi Ngā Mātua Logo

The Awhi Ngā Mātua team would like to thank Takai, the IHC Foundation and the Dines Family Charitable Trust for their generous contributions to our work. A huge thank you also to the IHC Programmes team, in particular the IHC Library which has worked so hard to make their remarkable collection available to us.

Use of this website is subject to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy