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Anxiety In Children
anxiety in children

Recognizing the symptoms of anxiety

It’s normal for kids to worry sometimes, but when the worrying makes it difficult for them to function in daily life, they may have an anxiety disorder. It can be challenging to identify anxiety in children since it often has a greater impact on their thoughts and feelings than on their behaviour. Below we discuss the symptoms of anxiety

It’s normal for kids to worry – they may be scared of the dark, get upset when separated from their parents or be fearful of visits to the dentist. But when worry is blown out of proportion; when worry impacts on their daily life and stops them doing the things that regular kids do, then your child may be suffering from anxiety.

Advice from the experts is to take anxiety seriously. If, night after night, your child is afraid to sleep in their room because of monsters in the cupboard don’t undermine their feelings – your role is to help them come to terms with their fears and concerns. Ongoing anxiety can impact on the emotional and mental health of your child and affect their confidence or cause them to become withdrawn.

Signs of anxiety in children:

It’s not always easy to spot anxiety or an anxiety disorder in your child. They may seem generally happy but certain situation may trigger them and prevent them from participating in normal everyday life.

Signs and symptoms of anxiety can be physical as well as emotional and can include:

  • Trouble sleeping, wetting the bed, nightmares
  • “Bad” behaviour, like tantrums, or refusing to listen
  • Clinging to parents or caregivers
  • Frequent crying
  • Regular stomach aches, headaches or other physical symptoms
  • Trouble focusing at school
  • Negative thoughts

If your child is showing any of these symptoms of anxiety above, then you need to take note of how often and how severe their reactions are. A situation that causes worry – for example, being dropped at school for the first time – should disappear within a few weeks. If not, it has clearly grown into anxiety and needs to be addressed.

How to help an anxious child:

  • Firstly, talk to your child about their anxieties. Let them know that you understand and that you want to help them find solutions
  • In order to manage anxiety, show your child how to recognise their feelings of anxiety, and then encourage them to ask for help when the feelings arise
  • Stick to routines. A daily routine is reassuring and will help an anxious child cope
  • If there are going to be changes to routines – anything from a change in the daily timetable to a parent leaving home for a business trip – prepare your child. Talk to them about what is going to happen and why, in order to give them time to adjust
  • Keep calm. If you become overanxious, your child will feel it and it might make the situation worse
  • Help your child cope with their anxiety through techniques like deep breathing (for little children, have them imagine blowing up a balloon very slowly, and then writing their worry on the balloon and letting it go)
  • Get your child moving. Whether it be yoga, team sports, or a daily walk, exercise helps calm little minds and lessen anxiety

Get some help if your child’s anxiety if it persists and is interfering with everyday life. Visit your health care practitioner or make an appointment with your child’s school to help plan the best way forward