Like adults, children can struggle with anxiety. Unlike adults, children don’t always have the knowledge or ability to understand or describe their experience of anxiety. Often a child’s anxiety can be identified best by changed in their day to day presentation and behaviours. .
Here are a few indicators that your child might be struggling with anxiety.
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Restlessness and or fatigue
- Irritability / Emotional
- Muscle Tension
- Difficulty Concentrating
- Excessive Worry
Not all anxiety in children is bad. Much like adults, it is normal for children to experience anxiety when they encounter new people and situations. In these cases, it can be expected that the child’s anxiety will decrease with time and exposure to the novel situation.
Anxiety in children becomes concerning when the worry becomes excessive or prolonged and the child’s anxious responses begin to disrupt their day to day activities.
To better understand your child’s experience of anxiety, make note of any changes in mood or behaviour. Do they seem a bit more clingy or distant? Do they complain of any physical aches such as headaches, or bellyaches? Have they started clenching their jaw or showing any other signs of muscle tension? Are they more or less emotional than usual? Is anything different in how they communicate or behave? In your assessment it can be helpful to invite input from other adults who play a key role in your child’s life such as a teacher, coach or grandparent. What have they noticed?
If you feel your child is struggling with anxiety, don’t panic. Look for age appropriate ways to invite your child to express their thoughts or feelings. If they are old enough, encourage dialogue that is supportive and helps them understand anxiety as normal part of the human experience. For younger tots, use expressive arts such as drawing or music to help the child connect with and communicate their internal experience. Once children can understand what they feel, they can then begin to develop healthy strategies to reduce the anxiety. If you have any concerns regarding your child’s safety seek the immediate support of a medical professional or crisis service provider.
As parents, we will always carry a sense of worry for our little ones. To help keep ourselves grounded, we need to remember this… children are resilient and with positive, attuned support even the most anxious child can be well on his or her way to a bright and happy future.
Bonnie Skinner, MEd, RP, CCC
B. Skinner Coaching & Psychotherapy