Anxiety is Common Among Children: Here’s How to Help
● 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
· Drowsiness or fatigue
· Leg pain
· Heart palpitations
Cognitive, emotional, or behavioral symptoms may also occur. Examples of these symptoms include:
· Inattention or poor focus
· High expectations for work or performance
· Anxious feelings
· Exaggerated or irrational fear
· Agitation or irritability
· Refusing to go to school
· Difficulties with transition
· 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.