Children are faced with a variety of new situations every day. Learning how to navigate social expectations, time management and routine changes can be difficult for any child. Children with extreme anxiety may have difficulties attending school or playdates. To better help children manage their symptoms, understanding childhood anxiety is crucial.
What type of child is susceptible to anxiety?
Any child can experience anxiety. The temptation for parents to blame themselves for their children’s anxiety is frequently high, regardless of its accuracy. Although any parent can have an anxious child, there are ways to make this easier on both parents and children.
3 factors that contribute to anxiety in children
- Routine changes. Children usually react well to structure and routine. A disruption in the regular pattern of their life can cause fear and anxiety. Moving to another location, starting a new school or experiencing differences in their social circle can all play a role in their anxiety.
- Separation Anxiety. In addition to routine changes, separation anxiety may also prove stressful for children. Separation anxiety occurs when a child is separated from a parent or caregiver. This type of anxiety is typically associated with significant changes in the environment such as a divorce or trauma.
- Genetics. Biological factors also play a role in childhood anxiety. If a family member has experienced a phobia, social anxiety or panic disorder, the child may be more likely to develop an anxiety disorder. Understanding the biological factors in a family history can give clues as to why a child experiences anxiety.
What are the symptoms of childhood anxiety?
Symptoms of anxiety in children are similar to those that occur in adulthood. Rapid heart rate, tense muscles, nausea and dread are common signs of anxiety. These feelings generally stem from a “fight or flight” response that is based out of fear. Children may be prone to tantrums, crying spells or clinging behavior.
How to prevent anxiety in children
Prevention of anxiety is different for each child. Since anxiety occurs for a number of different reasons, there is no “one” way to prevent it from happening to a child. Although the reasons may vary, there are several issues that are highly anxiety-producing for most children.
Bullying or being rejected by peers can have major repercussions for children. Many parents are aware that children can bully each other, but adults, too, can bully children. To understand how to better serve your child, there are bullying prevention training courses available for the public.
Peer rejection may or may not be considered bullying depending on the type of rejection. Some children may not have developed the type of social skills necessary to keep up with other classmates, thus finding themselves excluded. Other children may be purposely excluded from social activities due to a physical characteristic or even gossip. Regardless of why this is happening, talking to a child is imperative when finding out what happens during school hours.
The effects of bullying can be long lasting. The anxiety it produces can cause children to become fearful of new situations and may even stunt their social development. Since bullying happens both physically and online, there are now many more avenues for anxiety. Parents who keep tabs on their children’s social media have a better chance of understanding what their child’s social life is like outside of the home. To better support children who may feel teased or disrespected, communication is the first step.
How to manage anxiety in children
Anxiety can be a motivational tool when used in the right way. Using a type of therapy called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can help the child to make incremental changes in their behavior that can then impact the mind. This is a highly effective treatment that specifically addresses anxious thoughts that can become debilitating if not treated.
Understanding how to prevent anxious thoughts from spiraling out of control is one approach to coping with anxiety. Another involves psychiatry. Pediatricians can prescribe medication if the anxiety is severe enough to impact daily activities or routine social interaction.
Parents can help a child learn how to plan for experiences they know can be stressful. By walking them through the process, a parent can teach their child how to practice the outcome they want while focusing on the positives. By modeling confidence, parents can show how to navigate the world without showing fear or vulnerability. Allowing the child to experience distress is also recommended. By allowing them to cry while comforting them, children can effectively calm down.
Anxiety can play a big role in a child’s esteem. While it’s perfectly appropriate to experience fear in certain situations, anxiety can be debilitating when experienced in every-day life. By learning how to prevent anxious situations that are not necessary in addition to having the coping strategies available to manage childhood anxiety, children can have the tools needed to succeed.