Helping Your Kids with Anxiety: Strategies to Help Anxious Children
Many children under the age of 10 suffer from anxiety disorders. These disorders can stem from a variety of factors ranging from genetics to the environment. Children with anxiety disorders are often misunderstood. Many parents and teachers mistake their anxiety for misbehavior.
There are a lot of treatment options, both medical and natural. Also, there are many ways parents and caregivers can alleviate some of their children’s anxiety.
If left untreated, anxiety can become a chronic condition and can cause children and other family members a lot of distress.
The good news is that the more you know about anxiety, the greater chance you have of helping your child cope with this disorder.
Doctors and therapists are coming up with different solutions to treat children with an anxiety disorder.
What Causes Anxiety In Children?
No one is sure what exactly causes young children to have anxiety disorders, but several factors definitely can play a role. Several things can cause children to suffer from anxiety. The three main categories of causes include biological factors, family factors, and environmental factors.
Biological factors are the most scientific explanation for anxiety disorder. Neurotransmitters in a child’s brain control the child’s feelings by sending messages back and forth.
Serotonin and dopamine are two specific neurotransmitters that have been linked to anxiety disorder. If these neurotransmitters are disrupted, it can make a child feel anxious and/or depressed.
Family factors can also cause a child to suffer from an anxiety disorder. Some believe it is an inherited disorder. If a parent shows symptoms of anxiety, their children also exhibit those same symptoms. Anxiety can also be learned.
If a parent is anxious and stressed out often, the child can begin to inadvertently mimic the same behavior. However, just because a family member has an anxiety disorder does not mean that a child will inherit it.
Environmental factors seem to be the most common cause of anxiety disorder in children. When children live through a traumatic experience such as the death of a close relative, parents divorcing, physical or emotional abuse, they are likely to suffer from an anxiety disorder at some time in the future.
“Major life changes such as moving to a new town or change in a family’s financial situation can also trigger anxious feelings in children.”
Sometimes the birth of a sibling can cause a child to feel jealous and threatened and lead to the development of an anxiety disorder. Life changes can affect a child’s sense of security.
When a child is too busy with extracurricular activities, an anxiety disorder can develop. If your child is constantly running from one activity to another, it can cause them to get stressed. Many kids need downtime.
Some kids put a lot of pressure on themselves to do well in school. They want to make all A’s and they want to be popular. These children are afraid of making mistakes or not being accepted by their peers.
School is full of factors that can cause anxiety. When a child doesn’t get along with his or her teacher. It can cause feelings of anxiety towards school.
When a child gets bullied, teased, or left out of a social clique, anxiety disorders can develop. Sometimes books or movies can cause kids distress.
How To Tell If Your Child Is Suffering From Anxiety?
It is natural for children to be anxious to some degree. Many parents wonder how much anxiety is normal. In infants, becoming startled easily is developmentally appropriate. It is also normal for infants to fear strangers.
In toddlers, it is normal for them to be afraid of the dark, imaginary creatures, and to have separate anxiety from their parents.
In school-age children, it is normal for them to fear to get hurt, death, and storms. The difference between developmentally appropriate anxiety and an anxiety disorder.
Developmentally appropriate anxiety goes away over time and doesn’t prevent the child from functioning during daily activities.
“If you are unsure if your child’s anxiety is developmentally appropriate or an anxiety disorder, a psychologist or behavioral therapist can help.”
Children experience anxiety in different degrees. Some children worry about every little thing. Others don’t ever feel anxious at all. Unfortunately, many children are consumed with anxiety that affects their everyday lives.
Many children who suffer from anxiety disorder are not aware that they have a problem.
Those who do realize that they have a problem may not want to talk about it for fear that others might not understand. They may also fear being judged by their friends. This leads to kids feeling very lonely.
Teachers, parents, and caregivers need to pay attention and seek help if a child exhibits any of the following characteristics:
- Exhibits some type of worry every single day
- Seems worried often about events beyond their control
- Tries to avoid particular situations or events
- Preoccupied with pleasing everyone
- Changes in behavior including clinginess or moodiness
- Suddenly starts getting into trouble at school
- Obsessed with schoolwork having to be perfect
- Fears going to school
- Worries excessively about his or her safety or the safety of loved ones
- Complains often about headaches, stomachaches, fatigue, or muscles aching
- Sleep problems including insomnia or daytime sleepiness
- Wants to be near parents at all times
- Can’t concentrate on simple tasks
- Gets scared easily
- Rarely seems calm or relaxed
- Fidgets often, can’t sit still
- Frequently in a bad mood
These problems can prevent your child from completing regular daily activities. If your child is experiencing any of these symptoms and they won’t seem to go away, it’s important that you seek help from a professional.
Types of Anxiety Disorders in Children
There are different types of anxiety disorder. Below are the most common types of anxiety disorders in which children can suffer:
- General Anxiety Disorder – General anxiety disorder (GAD) is the diagnosis when a child experiences anxiety, but the cause cannot be determined. General anxiety disorder can last a few months or several years.
- Phobias – Children sometimes suffer from a specific phobia. These children mostly afraid a particular object, animal or certain situation. When a kid encounters phobia, they often exhibit symptoms such as shaking, difficulty breathing, heart palpitations, and an upset stomach.
- Panic Attacks – Panic attacks are also called as agoraphobia. Most of the Child suffering from panic attacks have repeated episodes of shaking, dizziness, chest pains, and intense feelings of fear. They often avoid certain situations for fear of having a panic attack.
- Social Anxiety – Children with social anxiety only have symptoms when in social settings. They fear unwanted attention from anyone, including friends.
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder – Children with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) are consumed by a specific obsession. They perform repetitive rituals as a coping mechanism.
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – When a child experiences a traumatic event, he or she may suffer from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The child cannot stop thinking about the stressful event.
Impact Of Anxiety For Child And Family
Having a child with anxiety disorder affects the entire family. It can be very emotional watching your child suffer from anxiety. This is important to set a calm example. It will not help your child to see you get upset or cry due to his or her anxiety.
Parents need to learn as much as they can about anxiety disorders. They can help their child. The more books you read and more research your learn about. The better you can help your child cope with anxiety disorder.
“Talking to other parents of children with anxiety disorders can be therapeutic.”
It will be a relief to hear other parents talk about similar situations you are experiencing.
Also, parents need to talk about the disorder with the other children in the household. They can better understand their sibling’s behavior. If the other children in the family don’t understand their sibling’s disorder. They may feel resentment towards the child.
Many siblings complain that parents pay more attention to the child with the anxiety disorder. They also complain about the things they don’t get to do, because their sibling can’t do them.
Set Clear Expectations
A parent must make it clear to the other children in the family that teasing and treating the child with the disorder badly will not be tolerated. It’s also important for parents to listen to the feelings of the other children in the family, so that they will feel important, too.
Parents may want to plan special time with the other children in the family. They will not feel that you are giving all of your attention to your child with anxiety.
“Siblings and parents of children with anxiety disorders may need to attend counseling themselves in order to deal with the problem.”
Parents also need to take a child’s anxiety disorder. When they planning family outings and attending social events.
Certain vacation destinations such as theme parks can be way too over stimulating for children with anxiety. Calming places such as the beach or the mountains may be more appropriate and relaxing.
Traveling in a vehicle for long periods of time or air travel can be stressful to some children. It is important to let children know what to expect. To find out their feelings about it before planning a long trip.
Possible Treatments For Child Anxiety
If you suspect that your child has an anxiety disorder. You must talk first you’re your family doctor. Your family doctor can recommend a child psychologist or a behavioral therapist that will be able to diagnosis your child and explain treatment options.
They will help you create a plan to help your child cope with this problem. There are several treatment options for anxiety disorder. The most common treatments are listed below:
Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) is a type of talk therapy that is administered by a trained mental health professional. Parents will talk to your kid about their anxiety and teach them strategies for reducing anxiety. The therapist will teach your child coping skills and strategies to help them relax in anxious situations.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) instruct a kid to live in the present and not worry about things that happened in the past or might happen in the future.
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) teaches children to maintain control of him or herself. It learns the child what to do when experiencing negative feelings or anxiety.
Different prescription medications can help with symptoms of anxiety disorder. Serotonin reuptake inhibitors are commonly prescribed to treat anxiety. They are extremely effective for most patients. Benzodiazepines are also commonly prescribed to treat anxiety.
They are very effective on a short-term basis, but there have been no long-term studies conducted on these drugs.
Unfortunately, many patients develop a tolerance to them, and the dose has to keep increasing every few months. Antidepressants such as Prozac are used with patients who need medication on a long-term basis. It’s important to understand that medications don’t cure anxiety. They just relieve the symptoms as long as the patient is taking the medicine. Coping strategies to deal with anxiety and stress are more valuable than medications.