Anxiety disorders are quickly becoming the most common mental health issue in the nation.
What is often left out of the conversation is that children can be impacted by anxiety disorders, too, and can be diagnosed as young as three years old. Children with anxiety might manifest different symptoms than adults. For them, be on the lookout for issues like an upset stomach, headaches, fatigue, and muscle aches and pains.
Many children with anxiety may also experience additional mental health challenges, such as depression, ADHD, or behavioral problems. For children aged 3-17 years with anxiety, more than 1 in 3 also have behavior problems (37.9%) and about 1 in 3 also have depression (32.3%). It is important to understand the multiple things that may be occurring in your child’s body in order to ensure they and the systems (e.g., school, community centers, etc.) that they interact with provide the needed supports.
It sounds scary, but it doesn’t have to be.
Anxiety is highly treatable. There is nothing wrong with receiving help or obtaining more information about childhood mental health. You are not alone. Seeking professional assistance early on can improve a child’s coping mechanisms and help them be more prepared to succeed.
Some general tips for dealing with childhood anxiety:
- Help your child understand and name their feelings. Learning how to name your feelings is important for all children, and adults too! Sometimes, just naming their anxiety can bring much relief. And your children can learn to identify their emotions, and be able to communicate how they are feeling to others.
- Validate their feelings. It’s okay to be mad, sad, or upset. We all experience an array of emotions. If children with anxiety are told that their emotions are bad, they will be less likely to confront them and learn how to work through them. Encourage open communication when they feel anxious. Check in with them when you are able and ask them how they are feeling. It will become habit and will make it easier for them to express when they are anxious.
- Understand your child’s triggers. For some, it may be loud noises. For others, it may be enclosed spaces or crowds. Identifying the source of anxious feelings and/or panic attacks can help you and your child feel more prepared to handle moments of anxiety.
- Seek outside help. A child therapist can make a world of difference for a little one who has anxiety. They can teach your child how to create healthy coping mechanisms, which will set them up for success later in life.
- Take care of yourself! Make sure your family has a support system. Find a support group, or identify friends who are willing to listen. You deserve rest. Creating ways to decompress and relax will help your child feel more at ease, too.
If your child has anxiety, don’t panic! Many therapeutic approaches, including Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), have been proven very effective in teaching management and reduction of symptoms.
Be patient. Be kind. And most of all, remember that you are not alone and that there are many resources available to you and your family.