Anxiety in Children: 7 Methods for Helping Anxious Children

Anxiety is a normal part of childhood and adolescence, but there is a difference between normal worry and persistent anxiety. You can assist your child manage their symptoms more effectively if you grasp the distinctions.

Understanding Childhood and Adolescent Anxiety

We always want the best for our children as parents. When faced with life’s hardships, we want children to be healthy, happy, and resilient. With daily pressures and family responsibilities, this is frequently easier said than done. Anxiety is a prevalent problem in children, adolescents, and teenagers, and it occurs at various stages of development. Anxiety disorders can be diagnosed in children as young as four years old, and a recent survey indicated that over 32% of adolescents in the United States had an anxiety condition, a figure that has steadily climbed over the years. According to the study, one in every four to five teens has a serious handicap as a result of their anxiety illness.

With disturbances to their typical routines in school, family life, and peer interactions, the COVID-19 pandemic has heightened anxiety in children and teens. It can be difficult to distinguish between typical anxieties and anxiety disorders in children and teenagers, especially during stressful periods. Young people, for example, frequently worry about academics or taking examinations, although this is usually just temporary once the current stressor has passed. Worrying, on the other hand, can have a detrimental impact on a child’s general quality of life if it becomes constant and interferes with their everyday functioning.

Dealing with your child’s anxiety can be difficult as a parent, but the good news is that anxiety is a highly treatable disorder. There is also a lot you can do to assist your child. Rather than assuming that your child will outgrow their anxiety, it is best to begin taking action as soon as possible to assist your child in dealing with their symptoms and regaining control of how they see the world around them.

Anxiety Symptoms in Children

Anxiety symptoms vary greatly and are frequently misdiagnosed in children and teenagers. Anxiety disorders in children are characterized by irritability, anxiety, excessive worrying, shyness, sleep issues, and/or physical symptoms such as headaches or digestive problems.

What happens in the world around them has a big impact on kids. They may feel depleted and separated from others, as well as afraid or embarrassed. Youngsters who are anxious may struggle to make friends or participate in other social activities.

The following are some of the most prevalent symptoms in children:

  • Concentration problems.
  • Sleep disturbances or nightmares.
  • Experiencing temper tantrums or troubles with anger.
  • Tension or fidgetiness.
  • Frequent periods of crying.
  • Complaining about not feeling well.

The majority of teens’ concerns are related to their feelings about themselves. These may include academic achievement and pressures to succeed in school, how they are regarded by others, and body image worries related to physical development.

Teens’ anxiety is not always obvious since they conceal their thoughts and feelings. Check for the following warning signs:

  • Persistent anxieties or fears 
  • Retreat from social activities or friends.
  • Irritation or lashing out at others.
  • Problems in school or a drop in performance.
  • Refuse to attend school.
  • Sleep issues.
  • Abuse of substances.
  • Always looking for reassurance.

Anxiety, regardless of your child’s or teen’s individual symptoms, can have a severe impact on their thoughts, emotions, and physical health. As a result, their ability to function intellectually and socially may suffer. Recognizing the reasons for their anxiety symptoms is the first step in assisting them in dealing with the problem.

Anxiety Quiz (Self-Assessment)

A generalized anxiety disorder may be indicated by unmanageable and persistent anxiety that impairs daily functioning (GAD). Take this test to determine whether you exhibit common anxiety disorder symptoms.

Anxiety Causes in Children

Anxiety in children can occur for a variety of causes. The most likely cause of anxiety disorders is a combination of environmental and biological variables. Anxiety runs in families and is more prevalent in girls than in boys.

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), social anxiety disorder, and other specific phobias are examples of anxiety disorders. Some children suffer from separation anxiety, which appears as fear and misery when they are separated from their parents.

Many types of anxiety can occur in children and teenagers at the same time. The three most frequent types of anxiety in children are separation anxiety, social anxiety, and generalized anxiety.

Anxiety disorders are frequently triggered by stressful events in their lives, such as abrupt changes in their lives, difficulties in school, having additional responsibilities beyond their level of maturity, stress from family situations, or traumatic experiences, such as bullying or other forms of abuse.

Anxious parents or overprotective parents may also add to their children’s anxiousness. In 2021, the research found that parental support was an important element in teenage mental health. You may enhance your child’s well-being and reduce stress and worry by teaching them to develop coping techniques such as acceptance, distraction, and a positive outlook.

Pic: Anxiety

7 Strategies for Assisting Your Child in Overcoming Anxiety.

  • Empathize – Let your child know that you understand what they are expressing by saying something like, “This is really hard for you right now.” Your youngster would do it if they could stop worrying or feel less nervous. Recognize that this is the best they can do right now and that they require your assistance.
  • Give your child a name for their fear – When your child is afraid, their brain sends a signal that it is time to panic. These messages may or may not be true. Make up a phrase or a moniker to characterize this jumbled message: “worry brain,” “worry bug,” “Fear-a-serious Rex,” or just “anxiety.”
  • It’s okay to respond (to worry) – Now that you’ve identified it, teach your youngster to confront it immediately whenever he feels anxious.   It’s okay to be a tyrant! “That’s all, worried brain!   Stop telling me that I should be afraid of intruders.   My mother is here to protect me.”
  • Relax – Fear is more than just a feeling; it can be a full-body sensation. Teach your youngster to take a few deep breaths, envision a specific spot, or tension and relax muscles to feel calm. Ideally, your child should learn these skills before experiencing anxiety.
  • Get Busy – Instead of immediately seeking answers to the problem, ask your youngster, “What do you want to do instead of worrying?” It might be an outside activity, crumpling paper, or reading a book. Focusing on a different option provides your child a sense of control while also interrupting the worrisome thoughts.
  • Encourage – Overcoming anxiety is a difficult task.   Give your youngster some positive encouragement, such as “You’re working so hard!” or “Way to respond to that worry!” Allowing your child to be scared and practice these skills brings them one step closer to their goal.
  • Seek professional assistance –  Anxiety is cunning. It causes us to exaggerate the risks while underestimating our abilities to deal with them. It is extremely tough for a parent to watch a child suffer from worry or terror.   Contact a Professional Mental Health Counselor if you are unclear on how to help your child or if your own worry is interfering.
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