Adults can often feel a bout of anxiety coming on and know what to do to overcome it. Even still, anxiety can be nothing short of paralysing. Anxiety can manifest physically; resulting in sweaty palms, heart palpitations and the inability to think or act rationally. Other times anxiety can prevent you from saying what you mean or doing what you want.
For kids experiencing anxiety for the first time, they can often feel like something is wrong with them and they may not want to tell anyone what is going on. Everyone feels anxious at times, but letting overriding anxiety rule your life can just cause more problems. Here are some tips for noticing, addressing and reassuring your child that anxiety is just another fact of life.
Why Do Children Feel Anxious?
Parents do everything within their power to let their children know that they are special and loved. You may dote on your child hand and foot, step in when another child or adult is seemingly treating your child unfairly and let your kid know that you will always be around to help. The fact of the matter is that a child can feel anxious for a number of reasons. Anxiety is a fear of the unknown, which causes people to feel a loss of control.
Simply taking your child for a trip in the car where the destination is unknown can lead to a bout of anxiety. Children might feel anxious before a birthday party, not knowing which one of their friends are coming nor what present they will receive. Realize that all anxious feelings are not bad. In addition, know that anxiety is perfectly manageable.
Exploring Common Reasons Children Experience Anxiety
Most of the time, anxiety starts in children when they experience new and unfamiliar feelings. It might happen on the first day or school, or even much earlier. Fearing monsters living under the bed can bring on feelings of anxiety in children. Alternatively, a child who consistently wets the bed might feel anxious about telling their parent about having an accident. Children might also feel anxious due to bullying at school or while they are in the care of a particularly stern babysitter.
Although parents can do things to reduce childhood anxiety, it is just as important for them to give their child tools to deal with these common causes of stress. You might distract an anxious child by taking them for a walk or giving them a new toy. Sometimes anxious feelings can be erased by creating new, good feelings.
How to Address Anxiety with Children
For the most part, it is best to just reassure your child and ask how they are feeling. Talking things out can help to calm an anxious child down. If your child had a bad day at school and consequently becomes anxious the next morning, you can work on validating your child’s feelings. Additionally, you can make helpful suggestions to your child, so they know what to do if they become overloaded with anxious feelings in the future.
As long as things don’t become too severe, most times anxiety dissipates on its own. Let your kid know that feeling anxious before a big test is perfectly fine. You can go further by telling your child that you often feel anxious before big events yourself. Tell your child that it is okay to accept those feelings of anxiety and go with it until they start to feel calm again.
Helping Children to Cope with Anxiety
To be able to help your child with anxiety you have to know why those feelings are manifesting. If your child feels anxiety prior to maths class, you might want to praise them whenever they get high marks. You can teach your child breathing exercises and other techniques that will make your child feel calm and centred as opposed to out of control.
When dealing with social anxiety, setting your child up to go on more play dates can be very helpful. Although, this may not work for everyone and can indeed make things worse. Every child is different and each one will have their own way of dealing with things.
If your child cries or becomes inconsolable, try easing up a bit and allow them to handle things in their own time. Although you can have good intentions you don’t have any way of knowing precisely how your child is feeling. So, listen as well as observe when attempting to help your child cope with anxiety. Remember, it’s their way, not your way!
Childhood Anxiety Treatment Methods
Doing something like giving your child a stress ball to squeeze whenever he or she is feeling overwhelmed might be the only kind of treatment method necessary. On the other hand, some children experience more extreme forms of anxiety. Take note if you see your child’s anxiety manifesting in other ways. If you see your child starting to withdraw, become depressed or avoid social situations altogether – you should not let any time waste before acting.
Left untreated, severe anxiety can literally take over a person’s life, regardless of age. Sometimes counselling can be a big help, especially for children who have been feeling anxious for a while or for very traumatic reasons.
When to Ask for Help with an Anxious Child
The best thing that you can do is take your child to a paediatrician and ask for a referral in the event that anxiety becomes a major issue. Through therapy, your child can learn why they feel anxious and slowly come up with techniques that make symptoms more manageable. Your child might find that talk therapy works best, while sometimes younger children get more out of play therapy. A child suffering from severe anxiety may need to attend years of therapy to get completely better, but the good news is that they will become a perfectly well-adjusted adult.
Know that children can experience anxiety from the time that they are toddlers. As soon as they become self-aware, they begin to realise how they fit into the world. Do what you can to help your child develop a healthy sense of self-esteem, without mollycoddling them or pushing them to become independent too fast. Use a balanced approach and your kid will be able to handle anxiety feelings without it having a negative long-term impact.