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Helping Kids Cope With Everyday Worries
Growing up is full of challenges that may cause anxiety, and learning how to cope with anxiety is an important part of growing up. Anxiety disorders occur in almost 20 percent of kids and teenagers. They are often under-diagnosed, and anxiety symptoms may be missed by parents. Parents need to be aware when kids need a little extra help dealing with their everyday worries and what to do to help them cope, to provide them with the tools they need to become well-adjusted adults.
Childhood Worries: Anxiety Kids Feel
Common worries that children may experience include:
- Separation anxiety. Kids who are worried about being separated from their parents may throw a temper tantrum or become overly clingy. These behaviours can escalate to refusing to go to school, frequent stomachaches, and extreme distress about sleeping away from their homes.
- Phobias. These intense and unrealistic fears about dogs, clowns, insects, or needles may cause significant distress, and making the effort to avoid objects or situations they fear can greatly affect children’s lives.
- Social anxiety. Fears surrounding meeting and talking to people or avoiding social situations are signs of social anxiety. Kids with this disorder feel self-conscious and have a greater need of support from their parents.
Childhood Worries: Physical Reactions to Emotional Stress
The younger the child, the more likely anxiety will be expressed in bodily aches and pains, temper tantrums, and other physical actions, because they’re less likely to reflect and think through the possibilities and consequences of their actions. One becomes able to think through these consequences as he or she matures, although this development is very dependent on personality. Children with anxiety may be consistently irritable and exhausted because they’ve been managing their anxiety all day.
Childhood Worries: Signs to Look For
Parents should look for the following signs to determine if their kids have a level of anxiety that may need to be discussed with their pediatrician:
- Sleep disturbances
- Headaches, stomach aches, and/or chest pain
- Emotionality, irritability, and low frustration tolerance
- Reclusiveness, avoidance of other people, and loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
- Decreased concentration
- Self-criticism, making perfectionist demands of themselves
- Low self-esteem
Childhood Worries: How Parents Can Help
If you suspect your child might need extra help dealing with his or her everyday worries, there are options available. Cognitive-behavioural therapy (a type of treatment that focuses on education and specific, active coping skills), medication, or a combination of the two have all been shown to alleviate worry in children. In addition, relaxation techniques, biofeedback, family therapy may also be used to manage anxiety.