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How To Help 4 Year Old With Anxiety

Why Is It A Problem

ADHD and Anxiety | My 4 year old son

You might think that eventually your child will grow out of her shyness. If it is normal childhood fears that she experiences this could be true.

However, in the case of social anxiety, inaction on your part can lead to more problems later on. It is important to consider the impact of allowing fears to grow rather than putting a stop to them early on.

Children who are extremely inhibited have been shown to be more at risk for later internalizing problems such as anxiety and depression. You might also see eventual issues coping with the social and academic demands of school.

Before You Try To Reason With A Panicked Child Help The Child Relax

“You’re not going to be able to move forward until you get them to calm down,” says Sesame’s Truglio. “Because if you can’t calm them down, you can’t even reach them. They’re not listening to your words because they can’t. Their body is taking over, so talking and shouting and saying, ‘You’re going to do this!’ is not very helpful.”

How do you break through this kind of panic? We recommend the Swiss Army knife in the mental health toolkit: deep belly breathing. Take a look:


Now that you’ve managed to calm down your child, it’s time to …

What Is Normal What Is Not

It is normal for children to display some anxiety as they grow. This often first shows up as fear of strangers around the age of six months.

This fear can develop into separation anxiety between 12 and 18 months the young child will become upset if separated from a parent at this age.

There are also natural differences between children in terms of how open they are to new experiences.

  • “Easy” children are generally adaptable to new situations and people and tend to remain calm and happy.
  • “Slow to warm up” children take a little longer to get used to new situations and tend to withdraw at first.
  • “Difficult” children are easily upset by new people and situations, have strong emotional reactions and poor ability to adapt.

Beyond normal childhood fears and natural differences in temperament, some children experience intense and paralyzing fear of new people and places.

If your child has severe social anxiety, she will experience distress when in those situations and will try to avoid the situations that cause her fear.

Some examples of common childhood fears include:

  • meeting strangers
  • a negative attitude toward preschool
  • onlooking behavior

Also, pay attention to the stories that your child concocts during imaginative play. Often many of your child’s fears will seep into the activities and actions of his imaginary playmates.

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When Parents Should Be Concerned About Anxiety

Experts note two red flags of clinical anxiety: avoidance and extreme distress. Texas mom Beth Teliho remembers when her son, Sawyer, now 10, started elementary school. He happily attended for the first couple of days. But then Sawyer started suffering meltdowns on the ride to school. “He was gasping for breath and crying, saying, ‘I can’t, I can’t,'” Beth says. “The look on his face was so desperate, like he physically couldn’t go into the school.”

Sara Farrell Bakers son August, 5, is on the autism spectrum and has sensory-processing issues. The boy dislikes loud noises, particularly flushing toilets and the hand dryers found in public restrooms. “He would become very distraught if we were going toward a restroom,” Sara says. “Just being in an environment where he expected loud noises would get him very anxious.”

Childhood anxiety disorders are divided into several types, including generalized, separation, social, and specific phobias, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Though different disorders may manifest in different ways, here are a few of the most common symptoms:

Fortunately, most children diagnosed with anxiety disorders will outgrow them, provided they live in supportive environments and get appropriate treatment. Learn more about the signs of emotional distress, developed by the Campaign to Change Direction, a mental-health awareness initiative co-founded by Aetna.

Is My Child’s Fear Normal Or Do We Need More Help

Dick Smith

Most kids cope with normal fears with gentle support from their parent. As they grow, they get over fears they had at a younger age.

Some kids have a harder time, and need more help with fears. If fears are extreme or keep a child from doing normal things, it might be a sign of an anxiety disorder.

Talk to your doctor if your child’s fears:

  • seem extreme or last past the normal age
  • cause your child to be very upset or have tantrums
  • keep your child from doing things like going to school, sleeping alone, or being apart from you
  • cause physical symptoms or your child feels breathless, dizzy, or sick

Read Also: How Do You Overcome Social Anxiety

Common Causes Of Separation Anxiety Disorder

Common causes of separation anxiety disorder in children include:

Change in environment. Changes in surroundings, such as a new house, school, or day care situation, can trigger separation anxiety disorder.

Stress. Stressful situations like switching schools, divorce, or the loss of a loved oneincluding a petcan trigger separation anxiety problems.

Insecure attachment. The attachment bond is the emotional connection formed between an infant and their primary caretaker. While a secure attachment bond ensures that your child will feel secure, understood and calm enough for optimal development, an insecure attachment bond can contribute to childhood problems such as separation anxiety.

An overprotective parent. In some cases, separation anxiety disorder may be the manifestation of your own stress or anxiety. Parents and children can feed one anothers anxieties.

If it seems like your childs separation anxiety disorder happened overnight, the cause might be something related to a traumatic experience rather than separation anxiety. Although these two conditions can share symptoms, they are treated differently. By understanding the effects of traumatic stress on children, you can help your child benefit from the most fitting treatment.

Validate Your Child’s Fear

We heard from lots of parents who say they really struggle to know how to respond when their kids worry about unlikely things especially if the fear is getting in the way of a busy daily routine, maybe a fun family outing or sleep.

“She comes down. It’s 2 a.m. And she wakes me up,” says Amber, of Huntsville, Ala., about her 8-year-old daughter. “And she said, ‘I don’t want to go away to college. I want to live at home for college.’ And it’s 2 a.m. … That’s when I really have to filter and not say, ‘That is ridiculous. This is not a big deal!’ “

Amber’s filtered response was exactly right, says Truglio. Never dismiss a child’s worries, no matter how irrational they may seem. A parent’s priority, she says, should be “validating your child’s feelings and not saying, ‘Oh, you know, buck up. You can do this!’ That’s not helpful.”

Lewis, of the National Institute of Mental Health, has language for parents who in the moment may feel frustrated by a child’s behavior:

” ‘I know that you’re feeling uncomfortable right now. I know these are scary feelings.’ You want to personify the anxiety, and so you can almost say, ‘You know what, we know that this is our worry brain.’ ”

Lewis says it’s crucial that children feel heard and respected. Even if you’re pretty certain aliens aren’t going to take over the planet tomorrow, if your child is worried about it, you need to let your child know that you respect that fear.

Read Also: What Does Social Anxiety Mean

How To Help A Child With Anxiety And Depression

Behavior therapy includes child therapy, family therapy, or a combination of both. For very young children, involving parents in treatment is key the school can also be included in the treatment plan. Consultation with a healthcare provider can help determine if medication should be part of the treatment. .

Anxiety and depression have increased over time2 Ever having been diagnosed with either anxiety or depression among children aged 6-17 years increased from 5.4% in 2003 to 8% in 2007 and to 8.4% in 20112012. Ever having been diagnosed with anxiety among children aged 6-17 years increased from 5.5% in 2007 to 6.4% in 20112012.

Although some fears and worries are typical in children, persistent or extreme forms of fear and sadness could be due to anxiety or depression. Learn about anxiety and depression in children. 7.1% of children aged 3-17 years have diagnosed anxiety.

Behavior therapy includes child therapy, family therapy, or a combination of both. For very young children, involving parents in treatment is key the school can also be included in the treatment plan. Consultation with a healthcare provider can help determine if medication should be part of the treatment. .

Signs Of Anxiety In Children

12 year old getting help for anxiety issues ~ vlog ~ April 9, 10, 12, 2019

Even happy-go-lucky kids tend to worry more once they hit age 7 or 8, as they gain a greater understanding of the world around them and realize how much isn’t in their control. “At this age, there’s a shift from monster-under-the-bed kind of worries to real-life ones, whether it’s that a natural disaster will strike or that they’ll let the baseball team down,” says Jenn Berman, Psy.D., Parents advisor and author of The A to Z Guide to Raising Happy, Confident Kids.

The difference between normal worry and an anxiety disorder is severity. A young child may not realize her worries are unrealistic or exaggerated, and she may only express them through behavior. If he’s anxious that something might happen to a parent, for example, he may have trouble separating or falling asleep. If he can’t stop worrying about getting sick, he might seek constant reassurance or wash his hands obsessively.

Children who have severe anxiety will also avoid triggers. If a child refuses to participate in activities other children enjoy, throws a tantrum before every appointment with the dentist or doctor, gets sick on Sunday nights, or spends a great deal of time in the school nurse’s office, serious anxiety may be the culprit.

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Teach Your Child To Be A Thought Detective

Remember, worry is the brains way of protecting us from danger. To make sure were really paying attention, the mind often exaggerates the object of the worry . You may have heard that teaching your children to think more positively could calm their worries. But the best remedy for distorted thinking is not positive thinking its accurate thinking. Try a method we call the 3Cs:

  • Catch your thoughts: Imagine every thought you have floats above your head in a bubble . Now, catch one of the worried thoughts like No one at school likes me.
  • Collect evidence: Next, collect evidence to support or negate this thought. Teach your child not to make judgments about what to worry about based only on feelings. Feelings are not facts.
  • Challenge your thoughts: The best way to do this is to teach your children to have a debate within themselves.

How To Help Your Child In An Anxious Moment

When your child is in the middle of a very anxious moment, they may feel frightened, agitated or worried about having a panic attack. The important thing to do in the moment is to help them calm down and feel safe.

These strategies can help:

Remember that everyone is different, and that over time you and your child can work together to find the things that work best for them in these moments.

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How You Can Help

Understanding whats causing the anxiety is the first step toward helping. Take a closer look at the behavior. You can use the anxiety tracker below to take notes. See if you can pick up on patterns.

Anxiety Tracker

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How To Help Your Child Manage Their Anxiety

Tips To Help Your Child With Separation Anxiety

Outside of moments when your child is feeling particularly anxious or panicky, there are things you can do over time to help them manage their anxiety and feel better.

A lot of these strategies are about helping your child to understand themselves and find out what works for them. The more confident they feel about helping themselves when things are hard, the more they will believe in their ability to cope helping to reduce feelings of panic.

Read Also: How To Relax From Anxiety Attack

When Should You Worry About Your Childs Worries

The difference between normal anxiety and an actual anxiety disorder involves severity, sayspsychologist Amy Lee, PhD. Having fears and worryingis a natural reaction to stressful or new situations for children, but itswhen the anxiety grows out of proportion that it becomes a real problem.

Normal childhood anxieties come and go, she says.

Loud noises, new people, new places and fearful experiencescan elicit a fear-and-anxiety response from your child thats quite normal.

Pre-teens and teens sometimes have performance-related anxieties. They may worry about upcoming exams or giving a presentation in front of the class. Older children are more likely to express their anxiety. When they cope with situational anxiety or stress, parents may find that offering support and encouragement helps a great deal.

However, for some children, these approaches just do notseem to help, and they may even bring about an opposite response of increaseddistress in the child. Pay attention to the effect your responses have on yourchild to gauge how effective or beneficial it is.

What Causes Anxiety Disorders

Several things play a role in causing the overactive “fight or flight” that happens with anxiety disorders. They include:

Genetics. A child who has a family member with an anxiety disorder is more likely to have one too. Kids may inherit genes that make them prone to anxiety.

Brain chemistry. Genes help direct the way brain chemicals work. If specific brain chemicals are in short supply, or not working well, it can cause anxiety.

Life situations. Things that happen in a child’s life can be stressful and difficult to cope with. Loss, serious illness, death of a loved one, violence, or abuse can lead some kids to become anxious.

Learned behaviors. Growing up in a family where others are fearful or anxious also can “teach” a child to be afraid too.

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