Childhood is often imagined to be a time for simple joys and carefree-living. Yet anxiety is the most common mental health concern facing children today. Because it doesn’t fit the portrait of this age, anxiety in children often goes unnoticed or dismissed as a ‘stage that will pass’.
Children haven’t developed the capacity to discern, discuss or handle feelings of anxiety. It’s a word rarely used in connection with childhood. And kids handle it differently than the adults in their life. They aren’t likely to go to a friend and share what’s going on. They don’t have the tools to judge or monitor their landscape of feelings.
When left untreated, anxiety in children is a pervasive condition that can affect all aspects of their lives. Education, family dynamics, self-perception, friendships and health can become hindered, creating patterns that carry into adulthood.
Signs of Childhood Anxiety
Signs of anxiety in adults and children are similar. However, children handle emotions differently and don’t have the tools to process them.
Both age groups experience these major feelings with anxiety:
- Persistent fear
- Psychosomatic issues, like headaches and digestive upsets
Determining If Your Child Has Anxiety
Nervousness, sadness, worry, and doubt are a natural and necessary part of growth. However, if a child exhibits extended fear, angst, and uncertainty, it’s important to explore what might be going on. This will help determine what will support his/her healthy emotional expression.
4 Guide Posts To Look For
- Does your child experience extended periods of sadness, worry, and fear? (ex. daily or for several weeks without letting up)
- Are your child’s symptoms increasing or becoming more intense? (ex. more outbursts, tears, anger and wanting you close)
- Are these periods interfering with your child’s daily functioning? (Is she having a difficult time at school, getting along with others, or experiencing health concerns?)
- Does your child’s reactions seem inconsistent with the actual scenario? (Does he seem out-of-character than others his age and with his personality?)
If you notice your child exhibits these patterns, it’s important to sort out what might be going on.
To take a more comprehensive look at your child’s symptoms and determine if support is needed, visit this link.
Further Things To Consider
Anxiety can be hard to differentiate from a bad mood, pain or physical discomfort. Children take in so much of their environment, and the transition is inherent to their development.
Areas to Look At When Determining Anxiety
In determining where your child falls on the range of healthy to problematic anxiety, consider all aspects of their lifestyle.
Children are perceptive. They have no capacity to censor their environment and are constantly taking in everything around them. Often, what a child is feeling is a reflection of what the adults and world-at-large are feeling.
If a child receives a balance of rest and physical activity, they’re able to process their emotions. A developing body requires ample time to sleep and to move. Without this, a child can fall into patterns of low energy with an inability to access their internal good feelings.
Children who eat a diet of nutritious foods feel at their best. An imbalanced diet can lead to stress, digestive issues, and other ailments. Nutrition has been shown to have a direct correlation with mood, behavior, and wellness.
Children who experience sadness, anger and confusion act out because they haven’t yet developed ways to channel feelings. This can create challenging interactions with parents, teachers, siblings, and peers. If there’s arguing or fighting in the home and school environment, it can add to a child’s anxiousness.
Determining if your child has anxiety can feel daunting for a parent or family member. Looking at your child’s behaviors, mood and lifestyle will help you to best support them. Together you can take steps to receive additional support and gain feelings of hope.