Anxiety in Children
Here's How Parents Can Help

Anxiety in children occurs in approximately 1 out of 10 children.   Your child may be experiencing anxiety if you notice nervousness, avoidance and/or exhaustion on a regular basis.  Fear may become replaced by anger at times.  An anxiety disorder lasts for at least six months and affects all aspects of the child's daily life including school, family and play time.

These symptoms may indicate anxiety.

  • Constant worry about many different daily concerns for at least 6 months. Children may worry about anything including schooling, relationships with friends, family rules, and new experiences.
  • Unable to stop the worrying, but they can't explain why they worry despite parental reassurance.
  • Physical problems,  including headaches, stomach ache, fatigue, and muscle tensions.
  • Sleep problems,  which may include waking up early, waking up feeling tired, or trouble falling or staying asleep.
  • Self-criticism and low self-esteem,  while worrying about receiving approval from others.
  • Difficulty concentrating, because they constantly worry they may not be able to complete school assignments, pay attention or follow directions.
  • Learning disorders may co-exist and should not be overlooked.  If the child still has academic difficulty after symptoms are treated, an educational evaluation for a learning disorder should be performed. A child's repeated reluctance to attend school may be an indicator of an undiagnosed learning disability.

Create a calm environment while  addressing anxiety in children.

  • Listen to your child.  By listening without judging, you can provide comfort and security when something is bothering your child.  Being supportive and available for your child will encourage her to be open and honest in explaining how she is feeling rather than becoming withdrawn.
  • Keep your calm.  There are times when your child's anxiety can cause you to start to become unglued but it is important for you to keep calm.  If your child sees you modeling a calm behavior, the child has a pattern to follow.
  • Maintain routines your child can rely on.    Household routines are important for children with anxiety.  Even getting ready for school in the morning or for bed in the evening can cause anxiety symptoms for some children.  Maintaining regular bed time and mealtime schedules helps your child become accustomed to daily patterns so she can be comfortable with what is going to happen during her day.
  • Help your child practice relaxation techniques.   Teach your child strategies to regain a sense of calm when escalating emotions begin to take over.  Relaxation techniques might be deep breathing, counting to 10, or visualizing a soothing place.  Learning how to relax helps your child manage their own anxiety symptoms.
  • Include daily exercise. Exercise helps lower stress levels. Since stress can increase anxiety, include regular exercise in your child's daily schedule.  Being out of doors, walking in the fresh air can help lift your child's spirits.
  • Praise your child's efforts to manage her anxiety.  Get in the habit of offering positive comments to help her with her self-esteem.  Even small improvements need to be noticed and by praising the efforts, she will develop confidence and continue to develop strategies to solve her anxiety reactions.

The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries
These techniques can be effective in alleviating anxiety in children but every child is unique. The solutions to fear and anxiety will be a combination of those listed above. If the anxiety levels increase, you should seek professional advice. This book by Michele Borba, The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries (Child Development) is an excellent resource for parents.

Anxiety in children also causes stress for parents. Often stress management techniques are needed for the family members to successfully navigate through the emotional challenges and maintain a sense of objectivity in the situation.

Anxiety in Children Can Lead to Anger Issues

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