Is your child having trouble sleeping, throwing tantrums, clingy or avoiding certain situations? Well, the child could be suffering from an anxiety disorder. This condition is also characterized by repeated and drastic moments of intense anxiousness and fear.
Children just like adults feel worried and anxious at times and if this affects their wellbeing, then it is time to seek help. For children, it is a bit challenging and diagnosing may be a little complicated and thus may require an expert.
While it is normal for kids to feel anxious, anxiety disorder mostly affects their behavior thus interfering with their normal life. Anxiety disorder can prevent your child from making friends, raising a hand in class, or participating in social activities Symptoms may start during childhood or the teen years and continue into adulthood. This, therefore, requires medication and professional help.
What are the signs of anxiety in children?
According to NHS Inform, which is Scotland’s national health information service, symptoms of anxiety disorder among children include:
- Crying frequently
- Being out of control during outbursts and quickly getting angry or irritable
- Finding it hard to concentrate
- Poor sleeping patterns or waking in the night with bad dreams
- Poor eating habits
- Negative thoughts and constant worry.
- Feeling tense and fidgety, or using the toilet often
- Clingliness all the time when other children are okay
- Complaining of tummy aches and feeling unwell
Types of anxiety disorders in children
According to Control for Disease and Prevention Centre (CDC), examples of anxiety disorder in children include:
- Separation anxiety: Being very afraid when away from parents
- Phobias: Having extreme fear about a specific thing or situation, such as dogs, insects, or going to the doctor
- Social anxiety: Being very afraid of school and other places where there are people
- General anxiety: Being very worried about the future and about bad things happening
- Panic disorder: Having repeated episodes of sudden, unexpected, intense fear that come with symptoms like heart pounding, having trouble breathing, or feeling dizzy, shaky, or sweaty
How Parents Can Help Kids with Anxiety
- Parents should consult a psychologist who specializes in treating children with anxiety disorders and have the condition medicated where possible.
- Parents should be supportive rather than accommodating to children with anxiety disorders. This is according to Medical News Today, which adds that a parent should not allow an anxious child to skip school or exclude them from family chores or activities. This will be enabling avoidance which reinforces anxiety.
- What parents should also do is to help children with anxiety take small steps and face their fear. This can be done by listening to the child by validating that you understand them.
- Parents should also be transparent and honest with the child in an age-appropriate manner. This can be done without overwhelming the child with too much information. The information parents provide should also not leave unanswered questions or gaps in their minds. This is important because if there are any gaps a child will fill in with their own beliefs. For example, during the COVID period, children may view the world as a dangerous place not fit for human beings.
- Another way is by reinforcing anxiety disorder inadvertently. Children’s natural response to anxiety comes from relying upon parents for assistance. This is normal for humans when responding to fear when young. They can develop resistance towards fear in their kids by encouraging them to face their fears in a supportive rather than accommodating manner.
In conclusion, treating anxiety disorder among children is possible. One of the key treatment techniques is the use of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT). An important aspect of CBT involves a therapist helping a child face the thing they’re afraid of a little at a time. By dealing with their fear in small amounts in a safe space, kids learn to deal with the big feelings that come up.
Remember, finding a mental health professional for your child is as important as visiting a doctor to treat a normal illness like flu.9