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The Hood Magazine

Anxiety is Common Among Children: Here’s How to Help

01/11/2019 10:23AM ● By Digital Media Director

By: Aimee Deliramich, PhD, LifeScape

Fear and anxiety are necessary for normal development in children. In fact, a certain level of anxiety in certain environments or events has been shown to be adaptive. For instance, some level of anxiety is helpful as a child prepares for a competition or takes a test. Some anxiety can help children to deal with stress and keep them alert, so they can do their best.

It only becomes problematic when fear and anxiety are at disproportionate levels and impair the child’s ability to function at home or school. Anxiety disorders are the most common type of psychiatric disorders among children, occurring between 2.5% and 5% of children and adolescents at any given time. About one-third of children will have met criteria for an anxiety disorder by the time they turn 18.

Kids are most likely to experience physical symptoms of anxiety, such as:

·         Stomach aches or abdominal pain

·         Headaches

·         Dizziness

·         Drowsiness or fatigue

·         Leg pain

·         Trembling

·         Heart palpitations

Cognitive, emotional, or behavioral symptoms may also occur. Examples of these symptoms include:

Cognitive

Emotional

Behavioral

·         Worry

·         Inattention or poor focus

·         High expectations for work or  performance

·         Self-critical

·         Anxious feelings

·         Exaggerated or irrational fear

·         Agitation or irritability

·         Crying

·         Clinging

·         Tantrums

·         Avoidance

·         Refusing to go to school

·         Difficulties with transition

·         Restlessness

Fears and anxiety, though common in children, tend to decrease and change as the child ages. For instance, a young child may be fearful of separation from their family, while an adolescent may experience social anxiety around their peers. Symptoms of anxiety become maladaptive when they are disproportionate to the child’s development or the situation, impair functioning, and are persistent and present most days. There are many helpful strategies frequently recommended to parents of children who are anxious:

·         Model appropriate behavior and reward the child’s brave behaviors

·         Encourage the child to express their anxiety and discuss it with them

·         Express positive but realistic expectations

·         Model problem-solving and then help them problem-solve (i.e., help generate ideas, and then ask them to pick the solution they think would work best)

·         Utilize a transitional object that may provide feelings of comfort and safety when a parent is not around

If these strategies do not work, families are recommended to consult with a professional.