Helping children and teens understand what anxiety is and how to talk about it in a healthy way can feel like a daunting task. Both our Caretoons animated series were developed for youth with parents, caregivers, educators, and health care professionals in mind—to give you an easy and fun way to start a conversation.
In Galaxy Brain, Episode 2, Drexal the Alien is extremely worried about getting sick. His anxiety starts to take over his life until he can’t enjoy the things he usually likes to do, like ride his hoverbike. His friendly computer sidekick reminds Drexal that everyone gets sick sometimes and that it’s a normal part of life.
When Drexal stops focusing on his anxiety, he can focus on having fun again. He learns that we can fight our fears when we face our fears.
In Time Travelling Pizza, Episode 2, Chris Crust is spending way too much time looking up possible symptoms on his computer—which only fuels his imagination and anxiety about getting sick. When his future self visits him, he reminds Chris that it can be helpful to focus on what we can control, such as washing our hands or social distancing.
Everyone gets sick sometimes, and it’s natural to have some anxiety around illness. But remember: when we do get sick, our family and friends will be there to help us get through it.
What is Health Anxiety?
Health anxiety is when we feel excessive anxiety related to symptoms or illness. This can mean mistaking normal sensations for symptoms of a disease or continually checking behaviours that disrupt our everyday lives. Usually, the amount of anxiety and fear is disproportionate to what would be expected in the situation.
Having health anxiety can consume our thoughts and actions, make us feel exhausted, and negatively impact our lives and those around us. To find out if you or someone you care about has a health anxiety disorder, it is recommended that you seek an assessment by a medical or mental health professional.
Find out more about health anxiety disorders and the symptoms, common situations, and coping strategies in our Anxiety Canada Health Anxiety article. If you think your child is dealing with health anxiety, then showing them our Caretoons episodes can help start the conversation and normalize what they’re feeling.
Talking About Health Anxiety with Kids and Teens
Adults and kids have experienced increased health anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s important to let kids talk about their fears and anxieties, rather than bottle them up. Having healthy conversations about what is happening around them and how it makes them feel can help alleviate anxiety.
Our article on talking to kids about COVID-19 can help you start a dialogue, explain what is happening, and discuss ways to cope. Let your children and teens ask questions and tell you what they are afraid of, rather than simply providing information. This is a great way to counter misinformation or myths they may have heard from friends or classmates. Let them know that you also are experiencing anxiety and it’s a normal response in stressful situations.
For specific resources on COVID-19 and how to cope with anxiety from the pandemic and the impact it has on our lives, take a look at Anxiety Canada’s COVID-19 resources.
Share Strategies to Help With Anxiety
Having accurate information can help with anxiety. As Chris Crust finds out in episode two of Time Travelling Pizza, searching symptoms online is sure to present something scary—but that doesn’t mean you are actually sick with the illnesses that appear! Make sure to seek the professional opinion of a health care provider; they’ll let you know if you are ill or if there is cause for concern. Otherwise, searching symptoms and diagnosing yourself could be causing you unnecessary stress.
When talking to children or teens about anxiety, follow our three-step process:
- Encourage them to open up about their fears
- Teach them accurate information about anxiety
- Help them recognize the different ways that anxiety presents in their lives.
If you are unsure about the signs of excessive anxiety in children or youth, take a look at our informative article here.
We have also designed a free, self-paced online course for children, teens, and adults called MAP (My Anxiety Plan) that will help you learn practical strategies and tools to manage anxiety. Six units take you through a step-by-step anxiety management program based on cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) that tackles difficult feelings at your own pace.
More Resources for Anxiety
The CARD system (Comfort, Ask, Relax, Distract) can be used at home or at school to help kids plan ahead and cope with their anxiety. Learn more about CARD here.
If you want to learn more about anxiety in children, teens, and/or adults, take a look at our resources below with useful information and ideas for teens, parents, educators or healthcare providers.
Educator Resources – Educator tips, articles, and resources.
Resources about Anxiety in Youth – Information to help youths manage anxiety, plus self-help strategies for several disorders.
Resources about Anxiety in Children – Practical strategies and tools to help you manage your child’s anxiety.