Anxiety is part of our survival instinct. When we’re faced with a threatening situation, our brains and bodies respond by kicking into safety mode. Our adrenaline starts pumping, helping us get ready to escape the danger. However some people, including children, react more quickly or intensely to situations they find threatening, or find it harder to get their anxious feelings under control. Some kids also perceive the world to be scarier or more dangerous than others. Just like adults, children and young people feel worried and anxious at times. But if anxiety in children is starting to affect their wellbeing, they may need some help.
What makes a child anxious?
Anxiety Symptoms in Children:
Children can feel anxious about different things at different ages. Many of these worries are a normal part of growing up. Things that happen in a child’s life can be stressful and difficult to cope with serious illness, death of a loved one, violence, or abuse can lead some kids to become anxious.
All children and young people feel worried sometimes, and this is a normal part of growing up. At certain points, such as on their first day of school or before an exam, young people may become more worried, but will soon be able to calm down and feel better.
Anxiety in children can become a problem when a young person feels stuck in it, or when it feels like an overwhelming, distressing or unmanageable experience. If this kind of worrying goes on for a long time, it can leave a young person feeling exhausted and isolated, and limit the things they feel able to do.
If your child is struggling with anxiety, there are things you can do to help them – including providing emotional support, working on practical strategies together and finding the right professional help if they need it.
The following are few symptoms of anxiety in children:
- Experiencing lots of change in a short space of time, such as moving house or school
- Having responsibilities that are beyond their age and development, for example taking care of other people in their family
- Being around someone who is very anxious, such as a parent
- Struggling at school, including feeling overwhelmed by work, exams or peer groups
- Experiencing family stress around things like housing, money and debt
- Going through distressing or traumatic experiences in which they do not feel safe, such as being bullied or witnessing or experiencing abuse
Here are 10 Parenting Tips to help escape the anxiety in children:
1. The goal isn’t to eliminate anxiety, but to help a child manage it.
2. Don’t avoid things just because they make a child anxious.
Helping children avoid the things they are afraid of will make them feel better in the short term, but it reinforces the anxiety over the long run. If a child in an uncomfortable situation gets upset, starts to cry—not to be manipulative, but just because that’s how she feels—and her parents whisk her out of there, or remove the thing she’s afraid of, she’s learned that coping mechanism, and that cycle has the potential to repeat itself.
3. Express positive—but realistic—expectations.
4. Sit with them and offer calm physical reassurance.
Feeling you nearby, or holding your hand or having a cuddle if it’s possible, can be soothing. Even if you are a stay at home mom or a working mom, make it a point to spend ample amount of time with your child.
5. Respect their feelings, but don’t empower them.
It’s important to understand that validation doesn’t always mean agreement. So if a child is terrified about going to the doctor because he/she is due for a shot, you don’t want to belittle their fears, but you also don’t want to amplify them. You want to listen and be empathetic, help her understand what she’s anxious about, and encourage her to feel that she can face her fears. The message you want to send is, “I know you’re scared, and that’s okay, and I’m here, and I’m going to help you get through this.” Its necessary to handle the anxiety in children with utmost care.
6. Don’t ask leading questions.
Encourage your child to talk about his feelings, but try not to ask leading questions— “Are you anxious about the big test? Are you worried about the exams?” To avoid feeding the cycle of anxiety, just ask open-ended questions: “How are you feeling about the exams?” This will help reduce anxiety in children and make them feel confident about themselves.
7. Don’t enforce fear in to child’s mind
When you don’t want them to do a particular thing even though it is incorrect for them, say it with a positive tone and a convincing body language rather than frightening them with the consequences if they would do that not so right thing. Saying “Maybe this is something that you should be afraid of” convey to the kid that “Why it is not good for them”. Let’s say if the child has intentionally lied to you about something in school, rather than scolding and threatening them, calm them and ask the reason why they were afraid of admitting it to you and may be for that time you don’t let them even know that what they did was bad. Just have a light conversation and you’ll see that they’ll come out this fear and so their anxiety.
8. Encourage the child to tolerate her anxiety
Let your child know that you appreciate the work it takes to tolerate anxiety in order to do what he wants or needs to do. It’s really encouraging him to engage in life and to let the anxiety take its natural curve to coming back to normalcy in handling crisis.
9. Try using all five senses together
Connecting with what they can see, touch, hear, smell and taste can bring them closer to the present moment and reduce the intensity of their anxiety. You might think together about five things they can see, four things they can touch, three things they can hear, two things they can smell and one thing they can taste.
10. Put yourself in their shoes
Think from the child’s perspective, sometime maturity of the adult is not what your child would expect when he is anxious, he/she needs an ear to listen, heart to feel their fears and courage to have the strength to face the fears. Even if the situation that is causing the anxiety is irreversible, it is important to make your child feel that this does and should not stop them pursuing their happiness.
When should you get help?
If your child’s anxiety is severe, persists, and interferes with their everyday life, it’s a good idea to get some help. Don’t leave it and assume things will get better on their own. Seeking help early for your child is the best thing you can do. A visit to a psychologist is not a taboo and you should not be concerned about the social stigma. Infact, a professional counselling is what your child would need that moment.
Firstly OBSERVE the behavior of your children.
CONSOLE and ACCEPT that they need special care!
BEFRIEND them and encourage them to SPEAK!
Make them feel EVERYTHINGs GOING TO BE ALRIGHT!
If you follow these simple ways, I am sure you will very soon get rid of anxiety in children.