Anxiety in children is often overlooked. We say our child is just a worrier or has a serious personality; however, there might be more going on. Here’s what to look for and how to help your little one.
What is anxiety?
According to Kids Health, anxiety is a type of stress that is felt physically, emotionally or both. It is a worry about what could happen.
Symptoms of anxiety in children:
People suffering from anxiety may experience shaky hands, sweating, trouble breathing, an increased heartbeat and dizziness. This is because the body feels in danger and the “fight or flight” mode kicks in.
When to be concerned about anxiety:
Some anxiety is normal – we all experience it from time to time. Many therapists say when it begins interfering with daily life, it’s time to get some help. If your child is having trouble sleeping, worries excessively most days, is unable to attend school or other activities or is feeling physical symptoms such as stomach upset, talk to your pediatrician for suggestions.
There are several forms of anxiety disorder including generalized anxiety disorder, separation anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, social anxiety disorder and post traumatic stress disorder. Your child’s pediatrician will likely refer you to a child psychiatrist for diagnosis and a treatment plan, which will often include therapy and skill building exercises to help your kiddo better manage the anxiety.
How to help manage child anxiety:
Your child will need help to develop coping skills. My daughter was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder in elementary school. She describes it as, “Being nervous is about something specific, like reading your report in the class. Anxiety is with me all the time, even if I’m not worried about something specific.” Some of the things that help her include:
- Therapeutic horseback riding
- Water (swimming, baths, showers, beach)
- Talking about her fears
- Deep breaths
- Having extra time
- Going to school or events early so she isn’t walking into a crowd
- Following routines
Anxiety in children is manageable. The first step in moving forward is determining if your child is anxious more than most kids. If so, there are a lot of ways to help. Professionals will guide you and help you find ways to make it easier for your child to navigate through life with anxiety.