Anxiety, like adults, also affects a large population of children from ages 1 to 12.
Unfortunately, anxiety in children is neglected because they usually lack an understanding of their feelings and fears. While feeling anxious is a common human response to supposedly unsafe scenarios, this may not always be the case.
Children of different ages express anxiety in different ways. For instance, babies become anxious when they meet new faces. They show it by clinging to their parents and refusing to leave. Similarly, 1 to 10 months toddlers get separation anxiety when they don’t find one of both parents.
Children of ages 4 to 6 years get unreal pressure by believing in monsters and ghosts. While pre-teens from age 7 to 12 often fear the risk of getting injured and any other bodily harm that may come to them.
Children may not always know about anxiety, so it’s up to the parents to see if the symptoms are due to anxiety or a health problem. Sometimes, your child may have an anxiety disorder instead of regular anxiety. In such cases, parents need to be alert and seek a health professional for their treatment.
Symptoms of anxiety in children
Feeling anxiety is unique to every individual. Therefore, every child may have a different set of anxiety symptoms than the rest. However, some anxiety symptoms are common and can be found in most children with anxiety.
Common behavioral and emotional changes that may be caused due to high levels of anxiety and stress include:
- Adopting a nervous habit like leg shaking, nail-biting or repeatedly touching hair
- Wetting the bed
- Changes in behavior that may be frustrating and confusing for the parents, such as moodiness, clinginess, having a short temper, and being aggressive
- Impulsive and reckless behavior
- Social isolation; not having friends at school, avoiding participation in school activities and plays, and avoiding social gatherings
- Difficulty in sleeping
- Changes in appetite; either overeating or eating less
- Timid personality
- Concentration issues
- Developing fears and phobias, such as fear of being alone, dark, or talking to strangers
- Hoarding insignificant and meaningless stuff
Anxiety and stress not just cause emotional and behavioral instability but also has physical signs and symptoms, including:
- Upset stomach, i.e., stomach pains, digestion issues, or diarrhea.
- Sweaty palms
- Rapid heartbeat
The above-mentioned physical symptoms are widely shared by a number of different diseases. Therefore, it’s essential for health providers to recognize that these symptoms may be a sign that your child has anxiety.
Reasons for anxiety in children
There may be a number of reasons for your kid’s anxiety. It may be due to internal pressures like getting good grades, peer pressure, or low self-esteem. Or, it may be a cause of their external environment and surroundings, for example, an abusive household, suffering from bullying at school, lack of friends, and too much screen time.
Some of the most common sources of stress in children are:
- The pressure of academic performance
- Major family changes (divorce, birth or death of a family member, or relocating)
- Abusive or unhealthy household (parents fighting a lot, use of offensive language, screaming and yelling, banging things, etc.)
- Childhood trauma (scary movies, games, and books, bad news on the media, childhood abuse, and witnessing or being in an accident)
- Overly packed schedules
- Being very popular or well-known (child celebrities)
- Parents’ health
- Family’s financial conditions
- Lack of friends
- Peer and social pressures
- Too much screen time (tablet, T.V, laptop, PC, etc.)
- Natural disasters, wars, or other catastrophic events.
How to help your child?
You can help your kid in various ways when they are struggling with stress and anxiety.
Some of these ways are given below.
- Don’t fight with your spouse in front of your children.
- Make your house a welcoming, peaceful, and loving environment for your kids. You can do so by playing games with your kids, sitting altogether during meals, organizing picnics and camping, and going out as a family.
- Keep an eye on what kind of video games your child plays. Also, monitor their choice of T.V. shows, songs, movies, and other entertainment programs.
- Keep your kid busy. Have them pursue a hobby that they are talented or interested in.
- Keep encouraging and motivating them. This is crucial as children with anxiety have a lot of uncertainty.
- Practice a healthy routine involving self-care, exercise, and meditation. Children mimic their parents’ actions. What they see their parents doing is what they’ll learn and do.
- Be attentive to the signs and symptoms of unresolved stress in your child.
- Give time to your child. Listen to them attentively and provide positive and encouraging feedback.
- Be affectionate and loving. Don’t use force to discipline your kids. Instead, be gentle and understanding. Understanding is the key.
- Provide guidance when your child needs it. Help them solve and overcome matters that frustrate or upset them.
- Ask a professional for help if your kid’s signs and symptoms have not improved. A combination of proper therapy, anti-anxiety medication, and healthy lifestyle changes can help your child overcome their anxiety.
Nowadays, many children show signs of anxiety and depression. School-going kids have the most significant ratio because they are unable to fully process and express how they feel.
Older kids are able to understand their symptoms better, which helps them to explain their issues. Younger kids can’t understand or explain their anxiety, so paying attention to your child’s behavior is important. This way, you can help them cope with stress and live a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life.
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