Most people consider anxiety to be something adults deal with. But, it impacts children more than you might think. It’s estimated that 7.1% of children ages 3-17 have anxiety. More recently, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, that number has become more important. Throughout COVID, everyone has experienced anxiety because of isolation from friends, a lack of a normal routine, and the grief of missing out on things they love. Children and teens can actually be more susceptible to anxiety during uncertain times, and may not know how to process or work through it.
As a parent or caregiver, it’s important to be able to recognize the signs of anxiety in children. Knowing some of the common warnings will make it easier to get an official diagnosis, rather than assuming it’s something else or ignoring it entirely.
Once your child receives a diagnosis, it’s just as crucial to know how to care for them. That includes helping them find ways to manage their anxiety into adulthood.
So, how can you identify and care for anxiety when it comes to the children in your life?
Common Signs of Anxiety in Children
Many of the signs of anxiety in children are similar to those adults experience. But, it’s easy to assume they’re the result of something else. That’s why eliminating the misconceptions of anxiety and kids is so necessary. Some of the common signs to look out for include:
- Behavioral changes
- Constant worrying
- Negative thoughts
- Difficulty concentrating
- Changes in appetite
- Stomachaches or headaches
Some stress in your child’s life is perfectly normal. It’s a part of growing up, and they’ll worry about some things more than others. However, there are obvious differences between moments of worry and full-fledged anxiety. Knowing the potential cause(s) of their anxiety can help you to realize when it’s something serious or not.
Your child’s fears could be triggered by anything from family history to specific fears. They may have experienced a traumatic event, or they might be under a lot of stress from current events. That’s why COVID-19 has impacted the mental health of so many kids, as well as adults.
Talking with your child is one of the best ways to find out what’s causing so much worry and uncertainty. You know your child better than anyone, so don’t hesitate to get to the bottom of what they’re going through.
When you do, you can take the next steps to help them.
Anxiety Management at Any Age
First, make sure your child knows it’s okay to feel what they’re feeling. Children can worry, more than adults, that changes in their mental health might make them “weird” or not normal. By validating their emotions and focusing on the positives, you can set the right tone for anxiety management.
There are plenty of lifestyle choices and changes that can make it easier for your child to manage their anxiety each day, including:
- Staying active
- Participating in relaxing activities
- Practicing self-care
- Practicing mindfulness
As a parent, you can help them through all of these things and encourage them to continue with positive choices each day. Another thing they should be doing is getting enough sleep. Anxiety and sleep can be closely related when someone isn’t getting enough. If your child’s circadian rhythm is thrown off and they aren’t getting a good amount of sleep at night, it could be due to anxious thoughts keeping them awake. Unfortunately, that lack of sleep can fuel their fears even more. Setting up a nighttime routine and encouraging healthy sleep habits can help.
Different therapies can also help, including art therapy, deep pressure therapy, or talk therapy. Working with a mental health professional is one of the best ways for your child to learn anxiety management skills now and in the future.
Seeing your child struggle with fear and worry isn’t easy. But, knowing where those fears are stemming from and recognizing the common signs of anxiety can make a difference. When you do, you can become the support system your child needs to manage their symptoms and live a calmer, happier life. If you start to notice any of the signs, don’t hesitate to step in and make sure your child is getting the mental health help they need at home, and with a professional.
Image Source: Unsplash