Although anxiety is often a word associated with adolescents and adults, it can also occur in children. Children who display chronic anxiety can often cause many parents to develop negative behaviors and cycles. It is only natural that parents would want to help their children to keep them from suffering. Unfortunately, managing childhood anxiety in the wrong way can exacerbate the problem.
Most negative behaviors and cycles develop when parents attempt to shield their children from situations that create anxiety. For instance, parents may anticipate that a certain situation or social event may make their child anxious. Therefore, parents may choose to opt out of those situations. Fortunately, there are better ways to help children manage their anxiety issues.
Symptoms of Anxiety in Children
Some symptoms of childhood anxiety are easier to identify than others. Some symptoms can make themselves well known whereas others might be harder to identify. The following are some of the more noticeable symptoms of anxiety in children:
- Nail biting
- Mood swings
- Refusal to participate in social events or activities
Some not-so-noticeable symptoms include:
- Frequent stomachaches
- Difficulty concentrating
- Trouble sleeping
- Frequent headaches
- Easily fatigued
- Muscle tension
If your child displays any of the symptoms mentioned, it is likely that he or she may be suffering from childhood anxiety. Fortunately, anxiety in children does not mean the end of the world, nor does it mean the end of a social life as you know it.
The Steps and How to Carry Through with Them
Understanding what steps to take allows you to better manage your child’s anxiety. The goal is not to avoid situations that cause anxiety. Instead, the goal is to help your child cope so that they may overcome feelings of anxiousness. Management steps you should take include the following:
- Teach Tolerance: The next time someone invites you and your family to a social gathering, accept the invitation. Removing stressors from your child’s life does not teach them how to overcome childhood anxiety. Instead, offer positive reassurance that all will be okay and attend the gathering. As time passes, the child’s anxiety will eventually decrease as he or she becomes more familiar with social get-togethers.
- Set Expectations: To help ease your child’s anxiety, it is best to set positive expectations. However, those expectations should also be realistic. For instance, if a child fears failing a test at school, express that everything is going to be okay one way or the other. Never tell an anxious child that he or she will pass the test. There is no way you can say that for certain and failure may increase feelings of anxiety. Instead, simply tell your child to give it their best shot and that you will be proud either way for their effort.
- Respect, Don’t Empower: When your children display anxiety, you should always respect their feelings. Never tell them that what they are feeling is “silly” or that it will simply “go away.” Instead, listen to what your child is saying with an empathetic ear. However, do not make the mistake of empowering your child’s feelings of anxiety. Instead, offer encouragement and help your child understand what it that makes him or her feel anxious to help soothe and calm those feelings.
- Consider Therapy: Therapy for childhood anxiety can have a beneficial impact. Therapy offers coping mechanisms for both parents and children. Through therapy, children can better learn how to manage their feelings and overcome the triggers that cause their anxiety to flare up. By the same token, parents can also learn the best ways possible to assist their child in overcoming anxiety issues.
By following the steps listed above, you and your child can be well on your way toward leading happier, healthier, and perhaps even more social lives together.
Monica Ramunda provides therapy both in person at her Louisville, CO office, as well as online. With a Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology and more than 16 years experience in therapy and counseling, Monica works as both a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and Registered Play Therapist (RPT) with adults and children respectively. Much of Monica’s success is based on her eclectic orientation and drawing on a wide range of different approaches and techniques, all while remaining strongly grounded in the principles of Cognitive Behavioral Techniques (CBT).