All people experience some anxiety at different points during their lives. This is a normal emotion that is very near to fear, which is also a normal emotion. It is perfectly acceptable to be afraid in some instances so that we remain safe. If a human is in immediate and real danger, fear is an appropriate and normal response.
Anxiety typically arises when people do not know what to expect in the future. It is a normal emotion to have when confronted with troubling circumstances. Anxiety is an appropriate response to speaking in front of a large number of people or before taking an important exam.
Anxiety in Kids Can be Missed
All kids get anxious or fearful from the time they come out of the womb. They indicate anxiety when they cry or seek comfort from a parent. However, at times, it can be hard to recognize anxiety in kids because they do not know how to show it. Anxiety can manifest as temper tantrums or misbehavior.
Causes of Anxiety in Kids
There are many situations and objects that cause anxiety in kids. Some kids are simply born with anxiety and are fearful of most new situations. Approximately 15% of all kids are innately anxious.
Other causes of anxiety are related to developmental stages that kids must go through. They become fearful of the dark, leaving their parents, monsters, strangers, and animals. When they get older, they may have fears about being accepted by their classmates, doing well in school, doing well in sports, staying healthy, dying, and family members.
Kids also experience anxiety when they or their family have significant changes in their lives. For instance, getting a new brother or sister, going to school for the first time, relocating, losing a loved one, and many different situations related to school.
Traumatic situations, of course, are sources of fear and anxiety in kids. Divorce, illness, death, violence, and natural disasters can all trigger intense worry in kids.
How to Recognize Anxiety in Children
Kids who have anxiety may exhibit these symptoms:
1. Thinking the worst about every situation.
2. Anger or defiance
3. Consistent worry about things they can’t control
4. Excessive crying
5. Physical symptoms like an upset stomach, headaches, exhaustion
6. The Avoidance of certain situations people, or places
7. Sleep disturbances
8. Trying to be perfect in every way
9. Not willing to leave parents
10. Putting off tasks
11. Not able to focus on tasks
12. Pulling away from family and activities they used to enjoy
13. Not eating correctly
How does anxiety affect the family?
Children who worry about everything can be detrimental to the rest of the family. They might be bossy or get extremely upset if a situation ends up differently than they planned. Parents might not know how to handle the tantrums so they don’t make the situation worse.
How to tell if the anxiety is too much?
In young kids, basic fears are acceptable. But, when they get older, they should be moving past these fears.
One of the main signs that anxiety is out of control in kids is that their response is completely disproportionate to the situation. In addition, kids who have anxiety find it hard to return to normal after a bout with anxiety.
Anxiety is an issue that needs to be addressed in kids who are unable to live a regular life.
Steps to Help
Here are some techniques parents can use to help their children cope with anxiety.
1. Establish a routine which will provide structure and predictability.
2. Teach your kids how to express their feelings
3. Give your kids the chance to talk about how they are feeling
4. Offer comfort and provide them with soothing reassurances
5. Respect the fears or anxiety your kids have
6. Be a good role model and handle your own stress appropriately
7. Help your kids be brave by exposing them to their fears in small steps
8. Teach your kids how to relax
9. Help your kids develop hobbies
10. Read your kids stories about other kids who have dealt with similar fears
11. Teach your kids how to solve problems and take action toward alleviating their anxiety
12. Help your kids replace negative thoughts with positive beliefs