Anyone who has ever suffered from anxiety understands how awful it can feel. Anxiety can cause a number of symptoms, such as restlessness, a sense of impending danger, concentration problems, and tiredness. It can also cause physical symptoms, such as sweating, increased heart rates, and hyperventilating.
Most adults can easily recognize the signs of anxiety and take the necessary steps to start feeling better. But when a child has anxiety, they might not know why they feel this way or how to cope. It is up to you as a parent to see the signs and find your child the help they need.
Signs of Anxiety in Children
Symptoms of anxiety are different for children. Symptoms of anxiety in children can include:
- Sleep problems
- Avoidance of certain situations
- Complaints of physical ailments
- Difficulty separating from parents
- Trouble concentrating and sitting still
Tips for Handling Anxiety in Young Children
Approximately 4.4 million children in the United States have been diagnosed with anxiety, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
If your child is experiencing any of the above symptoms, there are ways you can relieve their anxiety naturally. But if self-help tips don't seem to be working, consider contacting your child's pediatrician to learn what other treatment options are available.
Tip 1: Don't Try to Eliminate Their Anxiety
One of the biggest mistakes parents make with children who have anxiety is trying to eliminate their concerns. This could make their fears worse.
Instead, help your child learn to tolerate and manage their anxiety as best as they can. In time, their fears may begin to diminish, which could be placing less stress on your child and yourself.
Tip 2: Don't Avoid Situations That Make Your Child Anxious
Children with anxiety often avoid situations where they believe they’ll be uncomfortable. This may help your child feel better for a short period, but it could be harmful in the long run.
Allowing your child to avoid situations they find stressful, such as sleepovers or play dates, could add to their anxiety. Such avoidance can limit their lives in ways that increase their worries, not ease them.
Tip 3: Be Positive and Realistic
Telling your child that their fears won't come true is another approach to avoid. If something negative does happen, your child’s anxiety could worsen, and they might have trouble trusting you.
Be positive but realistic. Tell your child that you’re confident that they can handle anything that happens and you will be there to assist them. Being honest can prevent trust issues, and if your child sees that you believe that they can overcome their anxiety, they may have the same confidence in themselves.
Tip 4: Help Your Child Think Things Through
Trying to ignore your child's anxiety or helping them avoid it will do more harm than good. Instead, talk with your child. Ask them what they think will happen if their fears come true and how they would handle it. If your child can talk through the issues that make them feel anxious, it can help them see that their problems may not be as big as they fear.
You can also help your child develop plans to reduce their worry and uncertainty in healthy ways. For example, if your child is very anxious about an upcoming dentist appointment, you can buy books or DVDs that explain what happens at the dentist and why the visits are so important. This can help them learn actual facts instead of dwelling on imaginary fears and help them understand why it’s important to visit the dentist.
Tip 5: Respect, But Don't Empower
Children with anxiety don’t need other people telling them how to feel. This could upset your child and won't help them manage their fears. Instead, listen to your child so you can understand how they feel, then respect what they tell you. You don't have to agree with their feelings, but you need to respect them.
Listen to and empathize with your children while encouraging them to face their fears. Telling your child how to feel and deal with feelings could only make their fears worse.
Tip 6: Be Encouraging
Let your child know that you can see how hard they’re working to overcome their anxiety. You can recognize any setbacks and discuss them with your children.
When you consistently encourage your children, they’ll be more likely to keep working on ways to reduce their anxieties and fears.
Tip 7: Consider Supplements
Some supplements may help reduce anxiety in children. They include:
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- B vitamin complex (a combination of different types of B vitamins)
- Chamomile, lemon balm, and lavender
Before giving your child any supplements or making other health-related decisions, it’s best to contact their pediatrician and other health care providers.
Tip 8: Shorten the Worry Window
Anxiety can be debilitating in children. As a parent, it’s natural to try to do what you can in an effort to lessen it. One way to do this is to keep anticipatory times short.
For example, if your child becomes anxious about going to the doctor, don't tell them about the appointment weeks ahead of time. You’re just giving them more time to worry about it. Instead, wait until the day of the appointment to tell them about it. The shorter the worry window, the less anxiety they might experience.
Tip 9: Serve as a Good Role Model
We are all anxious from time to time. Pretending you don't worry doesn’t help your child learn to manage their concerns.
It’s better to let your child see you experiencing stress and managing it in effective ways. Your child looks up to you, and when they see that you can handle anxiety, they might have hope that they can overcome their own worries in similar ways.
Tip 10: Contact Your Child's Pediatrician
If you’ve been working with your child for a while, you may need assistance. Consider seeking professional help if your child's anxiety is disrupting their normal activities. If your child is too anxious to spend time with friends or participate in activities, it may be time to reach out to their pediatrician or a mental health professional. The same is true if your child's teacher has noted that anxiety is affecting their schoolwork.
Anxiety can affect people in different ways, and it’s not something to be ignored or wished away. You and your child should work together to help overcome their worries in ways that can help them live a more fulfilling life.
sunshinebehavioralhealth.com - Holistic Ways to Help Anxiety
childmind.org - What to (and Not to Do) When Children Are Anxious
aetna.com - Kids and Anxiety: What’s Normal and When to Seek Help
anxioustoddlers.com - Anxious Child? 5 Natural Supplements That Help Anxiety
aacap.org - Anxiety Disorders Resource Center
About the Author:
Stephen Bitsoli received his degree in English from Wayne State University in Detroit. The Michigan native is a professional writer for Sunshine Behavioral Health, guest blogger and was a journalist for more than 20 years. Since 2016, he’s used that experience and passion in writing well-organized, comprehensive, and comprehensible articles on the complex and changing world of substance abuse and treatment. He’s won awards for his newspaper articles and was the top-ranked blogger at an international website in 2018. A lifelong reader, he enjoys learning and sharing what he’s learned.
Note from the owner of Baby Wit:
Both my children suffer from anxiety. I am quite sure the modeling of my own anxiety only exasperated their own. This book recommended by a counselor for anxiety did help my son a bit and actually gave me strategies on how to deal with my own.