Signs And Symptoms In Children With Anxiety
As much as it is common to have occasional anxiety, it is also common for children to have anxiety disorders. While estimates of the prevalence vary, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that 7.1% of children between the ages of 3 and 17 have diagnosable anxiety.
Children with true anxiety symptoms may experience symptoms that include:
- Trouble concentrating
- Trouble sleeping
The frequency and appearance of symptoms can vary depending on the nature of the anxiety. Some fears may be triggered by specific situations, objects, or settings. Other types of anxiety, such as generalized anxiety disorder or panic disorder, can lead to symptoms that occur with greater frequency.
Other indicators of concern include symptoms that interfere with a child’s ability to learn, interact with peers, sleep at night, or function normally in daily life.
Normal childhood fears that persist beyond the age where they are expected to fade are also a point of concern.
Other Ways To Ease Anxiety In Children
- teach your child to recognise signs of anxiety in themselves
- encourage your child to manage their anxiety and ask for help when they need it
- children of all ages find routines reassuring, so try to stick to regular daily routines where possible
- if your child is anxious because of distressing events, such as a bereavement or separation, look for books or films that will help them to understand their feelings
- if you know a change, such as a house move, is coming up, prepare your child by talking to them about what is going to happen and why
- try not to become overprotective or anxious yourself
- practice simple relaxation techniques with your child, such as taking 3 deep, slow breaths, breathing in for a count of 3 and out for 3. You’ll find more guidance for helping children with anxiety on the Young Minds website
- distraction can be helpful for young children. For example, if they are anxious about going to nursery, play games on the way there, such as seeing who can spot the most red cars
- turn an empty tissue box into a “worry” box. Get your child to write about or draw their worries and “post” them into the box. Then you can sort through the box together at the end of the day or week
Help A Child With Anxiety
Fortunately, anxiety disorders are treatable conditions. If anxiety symptoms are interfering with your child’s normal daily activities, talk to your child’s pediatrician, a child psychologist, and/or a child psychiatrist. For school-age kids, a school guidance counselor can also offer support, advice, and a referral for further evaluation and treatment.
It is also important to note that just as with adult women, girls experience anxiety at about twice the rate as boys. Because anxiety tends to grow worse if left untreated, experts suggest that all girls age 13 and older should be screened for anxiety during routine health exams.
There are also things that parents can do at home to help children learn how to manage their feelings of anxiety. Tactics that may help:
- Don’t avoid what your child fears. While this may offer short-term relief, using avoidance as a coping mechanism reinforces the anxiety and worsens it over time.
- Offer comfort and model positive responses. Listen to your child’s concerns, but be careful not to reinforce these fears. Instead, help your child practice relaxation techniques while modeling appropriate, non-fearful responses to the source of your child’s anxiety.
- Help your child learn to tolerate their fear. Allowing your child to be gradually exposed to the source of their fear while using relaxation techniques to calm their fear response can help them learn to tolerate distress and eventually learn that there is nothing to fear.
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Improve Sleep Hygiene With A Weighted Blanket
Anxiety disorders and sleep troubles often go hand in hand. In fact, the ADAA identifies insomnia and poor sleep as one of the most common side effects of anxiety. According to the National Sleep Foundation, even missing as little as 30 or 60 minutes of sleep a night can have an impact on kids.
For kids with anxiety disorders, missed sleep can also make anxiety worse. One way to fight back is by improving sleep hygiene. While this may sound like washing your hands or using a good shampoo, it actually means creating an environment thats conducive to healthy, restful sleep.
Besides ensuring your child gets enough rest, you can also take steps to make sure their rest is peaceful and soothing. Research has shown that weighted blankets help reduce the physiological hallmarks of anxiety by lowering blood pressure, improving pulse oximetry and regulating pulse rate. In studies, 78 percent of participants also preferred a weighted blanket as a calming modality.
At SensaCalm, we make weighted blankets in a wide variety of patterns and colors, so kids can choose a fun print or their favorite character. Generally, weighted blankets are made with about 10 percent of the users body weight, but you may wish to go up or down in weight depending on your childs preferences.
Why Do Children Get Back
Every year, most students have a few nerves about going back to school. This is normal with the change in routine and unknowns of what a new school year will bring. School may also bring unique worries and pressures that cause anxiety, such as:
- The need to fit in socially and make friends
- Life changes, like entering a new school
- Anxiety about security and safety at school
“Some children returning to school may feel anxious because of hearing about tragic events such as school shootings,” says Dr. Westers. “If you sense your child is anxious about this, check in with them and listen to their concerns. It’s important to reinforce that they can always come to you when they need support.”
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Ask: Where Can You Feel It
Sometimes people find it difficult to identify their emotions. They may be aware that they dont feel good, but for some people, it is hard to know whether that feeling is sadness, anxiety, frustration, or a combination of different emotions. If a young person struggles to identify the emotion, it may be difficult for them to describe or communicate how they feel.
We often experience anxious emotions in our bodies, like that uncomfortable feeling in your stomach lurching just before a big presentation. Children and young people are no different. Asking your child to point to where they feel their anxiety can help them to understand their emotions. It can also help to ask questions like what shape is it? What colour? Is it spiky or smooth? You could even encourage your child to draw their anxiety.
Emma explains, I think it’s important for parents to think about their timing if they want to bring up sensitive topics like anxiety . The time that feels right for the parent might not be the best time for their son/daughter. It may be helpful to try and talk to them whilst simultaneously engaged in an activity . If they have watched a film or television programme featuring anxiety, it could be helpful to discuss that with them and hear their thoughts. It can feel more ‘removed’ and less ‘threatening’ if the conversations are more general, rather than specifically about their own anxieties.
When Should I Seek Help For My Child’s Anxiety
If anxiety is having a significant impact on your child’s everyday functioning and preventing them from participating in activities that their peers can comfortably do, this is a sign that you should seek help.
Tamariki may need some extra support when:
- they feel anxious more than other children of a similar age
- anxiety stops them participating in activities at school or socially
- anxiety interferes with their ability to do things that other children their age can do
- their fears and worries seem out of proportion to the issues in their life
It is important an assessment takes place by a professional who knows about anxiety in children and young people. Physical examinations are also recommended to ensure there is no underlying illness causing the symptoms.
Research has shown a form of psychological therapy is effective in learning ways to overcome or manage anxiety. Your doctor may recommend medicine if the anxiety is very severe or if there are multiple difficulties at the same time . If your doctor does prescribe medicine, then psychological therapy should also be part of the treatment.
Going to your family doctor is the best first step as they will be able to provide guidance about where to get more help. This may involve a referral to a counsellor in the community or to a local child and adolescent mental health service who can provide specialist assessment and interventions for anxiety.
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Helping Your Child With Anxiety
Anxiety is a normal fear response to something we perceive as a threat. For your child, a threat could be anything from his brother taking his toy to swimming lessons or starting the new school year with a new teacher. Many age-appropriate developmental tasks like potty training and learning to sleep in their own bed are perceived by the children who are facing them as threats, and provoke an anxiety response from the child.
Sometimes anxiety in children manifests as fear of specific things, such as separations from a parent or social interactions. Sometimes children develop phobias of specific things, like bees or dogs. Sometimes a child is prone to worries of all kinds. Sometimes kids react with fear to anything new, indicating that they’re in a chronic state of mild alarm.
Children are faced with new things all the time that naturally inspire a little anxiety, a little fear. So its normal for them to feel some worry as they approach a new thing. The goal for your child is not to feel fearless that would be impossible, and probably evidence of poor judgment. The goal is for your child to feel that fear and face that situation and do that thing anyway. If you child can do this, then they are feeling the normal anxiety that everybody feels in the course of life, and they’re handling it in a healthy manner.
How can you support your child when they feel anxious?
1. Listen and empathize.
Encourage The Child To Tolerate Their Anxiety
Let your child know that you appreciate the work it takes to tolerate anxiety in order to do what they want or need to do. Its really encouraging them to engage in life and to let the anxiety take its natural curve. We call it the habituation curve. That means that it will drop over time as he continues to have contact with the stressor. It might not drop to zero, it might not drop as quickly as you would like, but thats how we get over our fears.
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How To Help An Anxious Child
If a child is experiencing anxiety, there are things that parents and carers can do to help.
First and foremost, it’s important to talk to your child about their anxiety or worries. Reassure them and show them you understand how they feel.
If your child is old enough, it may help to explain what anxiety is and the physical effects it has on our bodies. It may be helpful to describe anxiety as being like a wave that builds up and then ebbs away again.
As well as talking to your child about their worries and anxiety, it’s important to help them find solutions.
For example, if your child is worried about going to a sleepover, it is natural to want to tell them not to go. However, this could mean your child feels that their anxiety will stop them from doing things.
It’s better to recognise their anxiety and suggest solutions to help them, so they can go to the sleepover with a plan in place.
What Anxiety Looks Like
When your child feels overwhelmed, their internal alarm system can trigger them into fight, flight, or freeze mode. Behaviours you may see can look like inattention, hyperactivity, acting out, or disengagement. Notice that anxiety can manifest in ways that overlap with the presentation of Attention-Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder , but these are not the same thing. A large part of how children manifest their anxiety depends on their personality.
- Some children appear hyperaroused – like a porcupine with its quills out – they externalize their distress and can explode. This parallels the body’s fight or flight response, which may appear as ‘freaking out’ behaviour. These behaviours are very noticeable in children. Your child may become aggressive, quick to anger, oppositional, desperate to try and escape, or disruptive. Some anxious children resort to making jokes or being mean to others. These behaviours can be misconstrued as purposeful and attention-grabbing.
- Some children appear hypoaroused – like a turtle tucking into its shell – they internalize their distress and can implode. This parallels the body’s freeze response. It is much less noticeable on the outside but just as challenging for a child on the inside. These children are paralyzed by fear. Your child may appear apprehensive, sad, confused, withdrawn, helpless, clingy, spacy, or zoned out. For some anxious children, this manifests as procrastination or a failure to complete a task.
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Stop Reassuring Your Child
Your child worries. You know there is nothing to worry about, so you say, Trust me. Theres nothing to worry about. Done and done, right? We all wish it were that simple. Why does your reassurance fall on deaf ears? Its actually not the ears causing the issue. Your anxious child desperately wants to listen to you, but the brain wont let it happen. During periods of anxiety, there is a rapid dump of chemicals and mental transitions executed in your body for survival. One by-product is that the prefrontal cortex or more logical part of the brain gets put on hold while the more automated emotional brain takes over. In other words, it is really hard for your child to think clearly, use logic or even remember how to complete basic tasks. What should you do instead of trying to rationalize the worry away? Try something I call the FEEL method:
- Freeze: pause and take some deep breaths with your child. Deep breathing can help reverse the nervous system response.
- Empathize: anxiety is scary. Your child wants to know that you get it.
- Evaluate: once your child is calm, its time to figure out possible solutions.
- Let Go: Let go of your guilt you are an amazing parent giving your child the tools to manage their worry.
How To Help Your Child Cope With Anxiety
If your child is struggling with anxiety, my goal is to give you the necessary tools to help your child cope with anxiety. Every child will experience anxiety at some point during their childhood. Anxiety is our bodys way of pushing us to succeed and feeling an urgency to accomplish a task. But this anxiety should be balanced. Too little doesnt give us enough of a push to buckle down and study for an upcoming exam. Too much anxiety can paralyze a child in their tracks and discourage them from trying at all.
Lets cut to the chaseI want to share my story with you. Yes, its personal, but if youre in a similar boatI hope it will help you see your child in a new light!
You see, my daughter was only 6 when we moved into student housing. My husband was just starting grad school. We shared an enormous backyard and playground with 25 other families. And we even shared walls with our lovely neighbors. At first, it was kid paradise! My kiddos made so many new friends and were constantly outside playing. Sounds a bit like Mom Paradise, right? But as the days passed, I noticed some of my daughters behavior getting worse andwell, worse!
Ill give you some examples.
- She played piano beautifully! But if she couldnt play a new song perfectly the first time, she became SO frustrated. Annnnd would quit trying.
- Running away when it was time to go somewhere she didnt want to go.
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What Are Signs Your Child Is Feeling Anxious About School
Children show anxiety in different ways. If you’re concerned your child is feeling anxious about school, be on the lookout for changes in your child’s behavior and mood.
Signs of anxiety can include:
- Disturbances in sleep
- Physical symptoms like nausea, stomach aches, muscle tension or dizziness
- Refusal to go to school
- Sadness or crying
“All children are different, and you know your child better than anyone,” says Dr. Westers. “You may be able to identify changes in your child’s behavior and pick up on the anxiety they may be feeling.”
How To Help Kids With Anxiety: 6 Ways To Help Children Relax
September 11, 2018anxiety and kids
Few things are harder for a parent than seeing a child worry. While all kids worry from time to time, constant anxiety can be cause for concern. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America , 1 in 8 children has an anxiety disorder. When anxiety in kids is untreated, it can lead to poor school performance, substance abuse and missed social experiences.
If your child struggles with anxiety, you want to do everything you can to help. Here are the major causes of anxiety in kids, along with products and techniques that may help your teen or little one feel calmer and less stressed.
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