Kids and Anxiety - 15 Things Every Parent Should Know
As someone who is naturally anxious and as a wife of someone with diagnosed and treating for severe anxiety, I know first hand that anxiety is tough to manage. But, transfer that anxiety to a child who is not even fully equipped to deal with the feelings or even understand – it is heartbreaking. If you are the parent of an anxious child, like I am to my 4 year old, you just want to make it better and to help. I know first hand that my daughter loses sleep, itches and suffers fear of new people and places. It is so hard to watch her struggle with these fears at such a young age.
If you’re a parent to an anxious child, or a parent wondering if your child’s worries might indicate an anxiety disorder, here are some things you need to know.
Symptoms Of Anxiety In Children
Anxiety is a normal part of childhood, and every child goes through phases. These phases are temporary and usually harmless.However, sometimes the worries are more than just a phase. If they become persistent and you aren’t able to reassure or comfort the worries away, then your child may have an anxiety disorder. This is something I noticed early on with my daughter – it was not just a phase, it was consistently woven through each stage.
Symptoms of anxiety in children can include:
Excessive worry most days of the week, for weeks on end especially with changes and transitions. I personally notice this most when my daughter has a school transition coming up and she worries over the move to the new room.
Worry about everyday things or the routine being upset. In my house, this comes up alot if I am traveling for work and daddy is picking up instead of mommy.
Trouble sleeping. My daughter has eczema as well, and when she is anxious she itches and this continues throughout the night.
Fear of social situations, especially new ones. New situations are a huge deal for us. Just this year after transitioning into the older room at school, suddenly birthday parties where she would play with her friends I have an extra appendage because these are new friends.
Extreme separation anxiety when a parent leaves for the night or day. I travel for work once or twice a month, which bring on triggers of anxiety and sadness. it is heartbreaking to watch.
Physical complaints, like headaches and stomach aches. even at 4 years old, she will often complain of her belly hurting or not feeling well when she is confronted with a situation that she does not want to face.
If your child displays some or all of these symptoms, reach out to your health care practitioner or a child therapist to get a diagnosis. I started to talk to my daughter’s health care provider when she just turned 4 as before then I was not sure if this was just normal toddler behavior. It is now something we keep an eye on, are conscious of in our daily lives and work with her to help her navigate these feelings. She is not on medication or therapy to date, but that is something we will evaluate in time.
If you’re a parent wondering how to help an anxious child, understanding these 15 things is a good place to start.
15 Facts About Anxiety In Children
Anxiety disorders can and do run in families, as it does in mine. Keep an eye to whether there is any familial history to General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
Anxiety disorders may start after a traumatic event, but they are often not caused by any kind of trauma.
Anxiety disorder symptoms may change, weaken and strengthen over time. They can also start and stop without warning.
Behavior patterns that are a common part of anxiety include fidgeting, itching, pacing, crying or clinging.
Avoidance is the main behavior pattern of anxiety. Things like refusing to do something they are afraid of, or avoiding new people and situations.
Your anxious child is aware that their fears are irrational, and they want to get rid of their worries as much as you do.
Anxiety in children can make kids feel physically sick.
Much like adults, anxious kids spend a great deal of time thinking “what if” thoughts.
Kids who are anxious have a hard time with transitions, change, and new experiences
Kids with anxiety may have panic attacks in their sleep.
Anxious kids are more likely to face their fears with some gentle encouragement from their parents.
Anxious kids may have heightened senses, and they tend to be better at reading social cues.
Children with anxiety tend to be very hard on themselves and strive for perfection. They may also seek constant approval or reassurance from others.
Anxiety in children can cause intelligent kids to have worries that don’t make rational sense. Like a fear of random things falling from the sky or monsters in the closet.
With treatment and support, kids can learn how to successfully manage the symptoms of an anxiety disorder and experience a normal childhood.
I can share that my daughter exhibits most of what is outlined above. It is not easy to navigate, but understanding where she is coming from and that her fears are very real to her, make it a lot easier to manage. What are you experiences with kids and anxiety?