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UPDATED: Need help on dealing with very anxious 9-year-old

Community Member

Hi, I'm new to this forum so apologies if this has already been discussed elsewhere. I just wanted to hear from other parents who are dealing with an anxious son/daughter. 

My son is nine years old and has been suffering from anxiety on and off since he was about four years old. It started to get worse late last year, at age 8, after we'd had a couple of good years. Then we started to see a positive change at the beginning of this year, only for it to rear its ugly head again a couple of months ago. He's the worst he's ever been at the moment, refusing to go to school at least 2-3 times a week, having panic attacks, feeling physically sick in his stomach (his most obvious symptom) etc. We're dealing with severe separation anxiety, generalised anxiety and a phobia of vomiting.

We've just started seeing a psychologist again - the previous two didn't make much of a difference - and he seems like a good one, but I think this is going to be a very slow process and I need some advice on how to cope in the meantime. 

It's having a profound affect on the whole family - my husband is missing days at work, as am I, and my daughter (aged 7) is constantly being exposed to my son's outbursts (crying, anger etc). I feel flat and helpless a lot of the time, just wishing for life to be the way it was when anxiety wasn't ruling it. It's like we're on an emotional rollercoaster and it's really wearing us all down.

I feel so sad for my son and wish more than anything I could make this go away, but at the same time I am finding myself getting frustrated and angry with him, which I know is so wrong. 

I guess I just want to hear from anyone else that has been through the same, or is going through this now, and see if there's anything that's helped get you, and your child, through. Any tips/ advice would be most welcome and appreciated. It's hard to talk to friends who haven't been through this as I don't think people understand unless they've experienced anxiety themselves or with someone they're close to.

Thank you! 

9 Replies 9

Community Member

Hi Soozette,

Welcome to the Beyondblue forums, Also well done for reaching out!!

I am not a mother myself, but i have supported many people suffering from anxiety disorders. Anxiety is such a common illness and can be extremely hard to live with not only the one suffering but the people around like what you have just explained. 

I am very sorry to hear about what your son and your family have been experiencing these past years it is very sad to hear that he has been suffering from such a young age it is very heartbreaking and unfair i completely understand your emotional pain.

It's great to hear that your son is seeing a Psychologist it is a great step to take and is better to get this under control sooner than later. Previously when i have helped and supported those suffering from the same illness i have found that relaxation strategies are very helpful and can make a big difference to their life. I can't recommend any to you as your son is alot younger to those i have helped before i'm not to sure what would suit his aged but i do recommend asking his Psychologist if he could recommenced any that you and your husband could help teach him and work through with him?

Have you had any thoughts on maybe getting your son to join a sporting club or something else that allows him to work with other kids his age ? Or even going for a walk each day as a family, walking helps clear the mind and can be a great stress relief. Being apart of something might help his anxiety improve alot.

I know you are hurting alot at this point of time but please remember known of this is any of your fault it is completely normal to feel angry, frustrated, upset it is all normal reactions to this sort of issue.But most importantly remember that your son is going to get better! No doubt about it but it is something that definitely takes time but you will all get there and things will go back to the way it was.

Keep your held high, you and your family are doing such a great job supporting your boy, be proud and be strong you can do this and so can he, keep pushing forward. Please keep in touch.

- Lori 🙂

Community Member

Thank you so much for taking the time to respond Lori. Your words and advice were very comforting during this hard patch.

To answer your question, yes he is involved in sporting groups (although they've closed down for summer) and he's a popular boy at school. But going for walks as a family sounds like a good idea, thank you.

Just got to keep pushing through and follow the advice of the psychologist I guess!

Thanks again Lori.

Community Member


You are more than welcome, It makes me very happy to hear that my words gave some comfort and idea's you are willing to try. It's great that he is a popular boy at school - being popular can sometimes cause a bit of stress due to them thinking they need to "prove themselves" to others.

That's brilliant to hear that he is joined in a sport i'm glad!! You are right while having time off sport you's now have time for "family time" and family time is always the best 🙂 

If you have anymore questions or need to vent Beyondblue are always hear to listen and to support you. Definitely keep pushing forward, and take in what the Psychologist has to say.

Goodluck 🙂 

- Lori

Community Member

I'm hoping I can bump this post up and get some more responses from other parents experiencing the same thing as me. My son is now 10 years old and we're going through exactly the same thing as last year (see earlier post).

We've had a great year up until about 5-6 weeks ago, when he was feeling sick in the stomach after a holiday to Bali (where he had Bali belly pretty badly). Ever since, his anxiety has ramped up again and we're now at a point where it's as bad - if not worse - than last year!

It's affecting his schooling, sports, friendships... everything. And I'm feeling absolutely helpless. 😞 I am constantly angry with him (which I know is not at all helpful or healthy) and am starting to feel anxious/depressed (?) myself.


Hi Soozette,

I am in a similar position to yours, although it is my 10 year old daughter who is struggling with depression and also starting to show worrying signs of OCD (washing hands constantly). We've had these issues for many years and they do seem to go in cycles where things are so bad I think I can't cope anymore, and then they subside and I really hope that things will be better from now on. It is heartbreaking to hear my daughter tell me how sad she feels and ask why she can't be happy like everyone else.

And what makes it extra tough is that it affects everyone else in the family. I have two other daughters and two stepdaughters. We do not go on family holidays because my 10 year old hates them and makes everyone else miserable. It's easier to stay at home. I try to protect everyone else from her moods.

Her father (my ex) doesn't believe in depression and tells her that she can just choose to be happy. He doesn't want her to see a psychologist because he is worried it will make her feel like a freak. And he thinks that she just needs to be challenged more academically at school (she is super bright and performing well above her age).

We are on a waiting list to see a psychologist (have see one before but it didn't help much). I am terrified that once she becomes a teenager, she will start harming herself or taking drugs to escape from her feelings.

I have suffered from depression my whole adult life and anxiety in recent years and I hate to think she has a lifetime of that ahead of her.

I really hope your daughter gets the help she needs. I am pretty sure my depression started around the same age (fluctuating). I was brought up in a household where you didn't complain, and my father also didn't believe in depression, or it seemed any negative emotion. When I was an adult and could take control of my own life, I did see a psychologist. I really clicked with her. She practiced CBT, and somehow it worked really well. I see a different psychologist now. He helps, but not in the same way as the first one. It will be great if your daughter can find someone she clicks with. You are a great mother for getting her help before it gets too much to bear for her. Tell her father that seeing a psychologist will probably make her feel a lot less like a freak than she is probably already feeling!! I wish I had've had early intervention x

I'm sorry your little man is suffering again. Anxiety is such a horrible feeling, and when you have it it truly feels like no one understands. It sounds like a psychologist may be needed again (if he isn't still seeing one?) and a lot of love and empathy. It must be frustrating when he is acting irrationally, but if you can manage to, remember that he doesn't want to be feeling this way either.

As someone who has physical anxiety (I used to go to sleep scared I wouldn't wake up), focusing on breathing can make things worse. Distraction or visualisation seems to help more. You can try getting him to look outside and tell you what he can hear/see etc. in the moment of an anxiety attack. There is a guy on youtube, jason Stevenson, who I have found helpful in some of his meditations (although he does often talk about breathing). He does have stuff for children as well, stories it seems. I haven't listened to them yet, but I think I will just to see what they are like.

Best of luck with everything. Your son is very lucky that he has a mother that is so switched on and recognises the signs of anxiety. Big hugs to you x

Thank you sensitiveswan - I will look in to Jason Stevenson online. I'll try anything!!

My son is seeing a psychologist and for about a day after each appointment he seems better, but then anxiety will take hold again and none of the tools/strategies he's learnt seem to apply anymore. He says the anxiety it too powerful for him to fight. I'm wondering whether a psychiatrist might be there better option.

And Mum of 3 girls, I'm sorry to hear your daughter is having such a hard time, too. I hope you got in to see a psychologist.

Thanks again to both of you for making contact.

Community Member

I have an 8 year old son and while I have never sought a clinical diagnosis I believe he suffers from anxiety and he is very sensitive and emotional.

I think with boys we unintentionally forget they can feel their emotions just is deeply as us females, and being young they haven't quite worked out how to process it all, and feeling the pressure (just because they are a boy) to hide it and be 'tough' must be hard work sometimes.

My son can get very irrational and intervening only makes it worse but when he's calmed down i make a point of letting him know it's ok to feel sad and angry and like the whole world is out to get him, but it's not ok to react the way he did. And then encourage alternatives... cuddle a teddy (my son still has a cuddle blanket), quiet time, or a quick run down the street and back for fresh air. I bought my son a diary he can lock and told him if he wants to swear and say inappropriate things he can write it in there instead, might not be good parenting practice but better than him yelling at me haha! Then when he's feeling better he can read it and realise how horrible it sounds and screw it up and throw it away.

Think it's also important to encourage him to open up to you about the symptoms as they happen, and tell him how anxiety etc feels for you.. sore tummy, nauseous, scared etc, so he knows he's not alone with it. I've also told my son there are 2 parts to his brain. One is a bit of a bully and can tell fibs (ie create fear that's not really there) and that is his choice to listen to his calm happy brain and not let the bully take over.

When he's getting anxious and panicky see if he will focus on his surroundings. Ask him 5 things he can see, 4 things he can touch, 3 things he can hear, 2 things he can smell, just try get him focusing on the safe environment that surrounds him at that point in time, bring him back to that moment instead of worrying about what's ahead of him.

I also make a point of telling my son how proud I am when he overcomes one of his worries, even if only small, so he will remember how good it felt when he next feels crappy and I remind him that he is safe and brave.

I'm no expert, what parent is, and I encourage you to get professional suggestions as I wouldn't want any advice you receive from a stranger (ie me) to make your situation worse. You obviously love and care about him so much, so I am confident you will find a way to help him. You must be exhausted, take care of yourself!