Did you know that anxiety and stress in children isn't all that uncommon? In fact, 10-20% of school-age children experience some kind of anxiety symptoms. When anxiety and stress get out of hand in children, it can lead to larger health problems in adulthood. And let’s face it, we all worry from time to time but when that worry turns into anxiety and stress, it can begin to affect everything from grades, to sleep and your child’s personal relationships.
To adults, childhood seems like a carefree time – we often forget the stress or anxiety we felt when we were younger. But when we think back and put ourselves in our children’s shoes, we can often remember the uneasiness of childhood. The pressure your child feels comes from many places; starting a new school, making friends, sports, getting a good grade on a big test. All of those things, and many more, can cause your child stress and anxiety.
Signs of Anxiety and Stress in Kids
While not all stress is bad, you need to be watchful for clues that your child’s stress and anxiety has become too much. Some childhood anxiety symptoms include:
- Poor sleep
- Poor eating habits
- Mood swings
- Increased illnesses
- Stomach upset
The above anxiety symptoms in children are related to potentially more severe anxiety and you should consult a doctor for your child to be evaluated by a professional.
By helping your child learn to cope with anxiety and stress now, you can provide them with anxiety and stress management techniques that can last a lifetime.
How to Deal With Anxiety in Children
If you suspect your child has some sort of anxiety disorder, contact your doctor first. Beyond that, here are some ways you can help a child deal with anxiety.
Listen and Communicate
When you listen to your child you give them a chance to get those feelings of anxiety and stress off of their chest. Sometimes it helps just to be an ear so they can explain how they’re feeling. Asking them open-ended questions and letting them lead the conversation helps them feel trusted and supported.
Participate in Relaxing Activities
We are a society that lives on the “go, go, go” mentality. If we aren’t moving then we aren’t getting anything done. But all of the moving and going can take a toll on all of us and the same is true for children. Allowing them to do something simply for the fun of it, with no expectations at all, gives your child’s brain to detach from stress. For instance, reading, painting, yoga, are all activities which require no competition or need for perfection. Exercise is another activity that gives the brain and the body a chance to release stress. Exercising also builds confidence and yes, will get the body moving and improve sleep.
Model Your Own Anxiety and Stress Self-Care
Your child learns from you, so if they see that you handle stress and anxiety in a negative way, they may think that is the only way to react. If you avoid stressful situations, your child will learn to avoid situations that may cause them stress or anxiety. If you face your fears and problem solve your way through them, your child will learn to do the same. Instead, teach your child about emotions and how to handle them.
The same goes for self-care. If you are unable to control your own stress or anxiety, you can’t begin to help your child manage theirs. We must learn to slow down and make time for ourselves so that our child can learn to do the same.
There are a number of things that you can do with your child to destress when they feel anxious. While these are mainly relaxation strategies often used in mindfulness, they are also beneficial to a child who may be feeling stress and anxiety and not sure how to handle these emotions.
Popular mindfulness techniques such as deep breathing and slow counting are great ways to begin teaching your child how to slow down and be in the moment. Feel free to incorporate meditation, even for 60 seconds can make a difference and bring your child back into focus. If your child is willing, simple yoga poses can accompany the deep breathing and counting techniques. Deep breathing slows down the “hyperstate” your child’s body is in; heart racing and fast breathing.
Most of us have the tools to teach our child how to cope with anxiety and stress. We may not be able to provide a completely stress-free world but we can show them how to manage their own anxiety and stress in healthy and productive ways.