According to the World Health Organization, 58 million children and adolescents worldwide are living with an anxiety disorder. While there are several different kinds of anxiety disorders, they are all characterized by excessive worry and fear.
According to Bridget Barnes, Boys Town Common Sense Parenting® Program expert, “Anxiety in children can be triggered by an object, life circumstances or trauma, and events, and often leaves kids worrying about virtually everything. Kids today often feel unsure and not in control and that causes them stress."
“As a parent, you know your kids better than anyone," said Julia Cook, former teacher, school counselor and award-winning Boys Town Press® author. “You are your child's expert. If your kid is not acting like your kid, don't ignore it. It's important to understand what is making them anxious and what calms them down. All kids want to be seen, heard and validated."
Physical signs of anxiety in children include:
- Acting tense – cannot relax
- Avoiding school
- Worrying about everything
- Repeatedly asking the same question
- Complaining of nausea
- Apologizing often
It's important to note the frequency and intensity of these behaviors. If these types of behaviors are beginning to interfere with your child's life, that is a red flag that should be actively addressed. Effective communication with your child can offer some insights, especially in teens. “Little kids just react," said Barnes, “and they can't really tell you why they feel anxious, but often it's little things like monsters or upcoming events."
Teens, on the other hand, can often tell you what is wrong. “With teens, anxiety is often caused by sleep deprivation and chemical changes in the brain," said Cook, “and teens are primarily worried about themselves. Our job, as parents, is to help them turn down the volume on their fears, control their anxiety and become more comfortable with living in the moment.”
Kids need to be comfortable with who they are, and they don't need to change just to be like everyone else. “Trust and communication are the two things that all human relationships require," said Cook. “Validating your child's feelings and assuring them that you understand are great first steps in helping your child deal with their anxiety. Don't hesitate to seek professional help if everything you have tried doesn't seem to be working."
For more information about recognizing the signs of anxiety in children, visit: https://www.boystown.org/parenting/questions-and-answers/Pages/signs-of-anxiety.aspx.
To learn about identifying feelings and teaching coping skills visit: https://www.boystown.org/parenting/Pages/feelings-and-coping-skills.aspx
To learn about when to seek help for anxiety, visit: https://www.boystownpediatrics.org/knowledge-center/child-anxiety
For a complete listing of Julia Cook's books, visit: https://www.boystownpress.org/author/julia-cook/
Boys Town also offers valuable resources for parents including classes like Common Sense Parenting® and parenting guides, articles, videos, tools and quick tips on a variety of subjects developed by Boys Town experts. For more information, visit https://www.parenting.org.