By: Alicia McQueen, School Counseling
It is not uncommon or abnormal to experience some levels of anxiety in our every day lives. Adults and children alike have every day life situations that can be anxiety inducing. However, with children, parents and schools should be aware of the increase in children with anxiety that can become hindering to a child’s activity. Some research shows that 1 out of every 8 children has the potential of developing an anxiety disorder. While this may sound like a frightening thought, there is good news! One, just because a child may have a tendency to be more anxious, it doesn’t mean they have an anxiety disorder. Two, there are ways to notice and help your child to cope with their anxiety in a healthy way. Whew!
A key to helping children cope with anxiety and not develop a more complex problem, is to notice some of the common signs of anxiety in children. This can be a tricky task when considering that there are a wide range of symptoms. However, noticing that symptoms present frequently and possibly around the same situations can be an indicator of an unhealthy anxiety. One of the number one things to consider is whether or not the anxiety is hindering a child from every day activities. If your child begins to withdraw from something they otherwise would enjoy doing because of a fear or anxiety, this is a sign of anxiety reaching an unhealthy stage. Additionally, children that complain of constant tummy aches, have trouble sleeping, become very clingy, lack focus, or begin having emotional outbursts that seem to be extreme may be showing signs of anxiety.
Treating and working through anxiety is key. Avoiding or punishing the behaviors/symptoms above can lead to bigger problems. Children need to understand their anxiety and learn to cope with it in healthy ways. Untreated anxiety can lead to confusion, poor performance in school and social situations, and problems with self-esteem. Often, children that talk with their parents and address anxieties gain reassurance and coping strategies that help them when they find themselves getting anxious. Reaching out to a school counselor, a community counselor, and/or a pediatrician can also be a great avenue for parents needing a little help in how to work with their anxious child.
So, what is the good news about anxiety? Anxiety, while increasing in children, is pretty well-researched, with many successful and helpful tools available. Knowing the signs and symptoms to look for is key in helping your child to cope in healthy ways. As always, sitting down and chatting with your child, going out to do something fun, unplugging and spending time together, or reading a good book together sparks conversations and healthy ways to work through what is stressing them. Being in tune with how they are feeling is the best way to catch anxiety early.