10 Ways to Help Anxious Children

Introduction

It’s Monday morning. My three year old wakes me up at the usual time every morning, 6:30am. He uses the toilet, then it’s out to the den where I turn on cartoons and we both dig into a bowl of cereal. I shower and get dressed for work.

I grab my car keys and my son immediately begins to cry and shout, “NO, NO, NO. I don’t want to go!” During the week he goes to daycare, and it’s the same routine every morning. Sometimes I comfort him, other times I use tough love, I’m not sure exactly what he needs. I just know it hurts to see the genuine pain and anxiety on his face. Could this lead to other anxiety problems in the future? How should I handle the situation? Am I setting him up to be insecure as a teenager and adult?

Do you remember your childhood? Were you carefree, running barefoot outside with your friends? Or were you anxiety ridden, filled with fear of the unknown? You were most likely a little of both. Everyone experiences anxiety, adults and children alike. However, some children suffer from anxiety a little to a lot more than average. As a parent, we stop at nothing to make sure our kids are well, mentally and physically. So to see a child, my son for example, suffer from anxiety because of daycare can bring distraught and sadness to our hearts.

Thankfully, there are wonderful resources parents can tap into regarding anxiety in children online. For instance, this blog post, will outline just how prevalent anxiety is in children, then provide ways parents can help. It’s also important to know and understand what not to do, how to properly fix things, and differentiate between the things that make our children better and worse.

 

Common causes of anxiety in children

There are a vast amount of reasons why children experience anxiety and stress. The Mental Health Foundation describes themselves as the UK’s leading charity concerned with both mental health and learning disabilities. They published a booklet called The Anxious Child which states reasons for children to be generally anxious. Some of those reasons are:

  • Genetics – A family history of anxiety.

  • Physical illness or disability – Nagging pain and discomfort, or not being able to do average things other kids can, both, can easily turn into stress and anxiety.

  • Family problems – Children have sensitive receptors and pick up on strife and turmoil in the home.

  • School worries – Being overly shy, bullies, the fear of speaking up in class can all lead to anxiety in kids.

  • Problems with friends – Drama with friends starts at a very young age. It’s not uncommon for my preschooler to cry about how her best friend doesn’t want to be friends anymore.

 

So exactly how many children are actually diagnosed with severe anxiety? Dr. Hans Steiner, a Professor Emeritus of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University states in an article called Anxiety in children,

“Children with a diagnosed anxiety disorder approximate 7-10% of the population segment.”

While that number is not astronomical, it is still large since we are talking about children. And, the 7-10% is only referencing those that are diagnosed.

 working, school, book, reading

So what are the signs of anxiousness in a child?

As a parent, we always worry if our child’s sickness is normal or something more. A child’s behaviour can sometimes be confusing and worrisome to parents.

I found a wonderful PDF published by Bright Futures called Tips for Parenting the Anxious Child that outlines several questions you can ask yourself.

Ask yourself, does your child:

  • Worry or feel frightened excessively or without a good reason?

  • Have many concerns about academic or social performance?

  • Need an excessive amount of reassurance?

  • Have physical complaints such as headaches or stomachaches when feeling stressed?

  • Become embarrassed easily?

  • Have difficulty relaxing in groups?

If you answered yes to all or most of these questions, you may have a child dealing with an anxiety issue. So how can you help your child overcome anxiety? Let’s discuss 10 things you can start trying today.

 

10 Ways to help your child cope with anxiety

I crawled the web for you, did days of research. I Only looked at prominent educational websites and found recurring themes regarding ways parents can help anxious children.

  1. Dr. Hans Steiner says, “First make sure the child is healthy and make sure there is no underlying medical condition that could bring on anxiety.”

  2. Allow children to make small decisions for themselves, like asking them, “Do you want to wear this shirt or that shirt?” Allowing children to make even the smallest decisions on a daily basis builds trust and confidence.

  3. Find children’s books geared towards dealing with anxiety and fear. Many parents, like myself, have a hard time explaining to children what they are experiencing. A good illustrated story about a child facing their fears may communicate the idea much more clearly.

  4. Parents, don’t be too overprotective. Sheltering a child experiencing anxiety can often increase anxiety as a parent’s constant presence becomes a crutch.

  5. Help your child prepare. If your child’s anxiousness stems from school related work like taking tests, speaking in front of class or being called upon to answer questions in class, practice those scenarios with your child at home to help build their confidence.

  6. Get your child adjusted regularly. Being a chiropractic clinic, we had to get this in. Chiropractic adjustments help relieve muscle tension and anxiety. This tip goes along with tip #1, making sure your child is healthy, as a child free of pain and illness will not have to worry about such distractions.

  7. For specific fears, ask your child to act out how to overcome the situation using dolls. For example, my five year old has trouble making new friends. She often plays alone at school. When we sit down and play, I can ask her to show me how her doll can make friends with the other dolls.

  8. Reward your child when they do activities independently.

  9. Reassure your child that worrying is something everyone does. Often, children with anxiety believe they are different than everyone else. This stokes the feeling of anxiety and increases a feeling of loneliness. Be sure to explain that you, the parent, worry, too, along with everyone else. If we never worried about anything, then people wouldn’t bother going to school, work or getting important tasks done throughout the day because know one would care.

  10. Be patient. Especially with toddlers. Anxiety and fear can be the result of constant crying and whining. As a parent, we can only take so much of it, right? Currently, my three year old is going through separation anxiety with mom. It’s stressful for my son, it’s stressful for my wife, the constant clinging, and it’s stressful for me because my son doesn’t want to be with dad when mom is around. During these times, we have found that family walks around the block are a great way to settle everyone’s nerves while enjoying a good family moment.

 

In Conclusion

All children have times of anxiety and stress, however, some children chronically suffer from anxiety. Common causes of anxiety in kids are a family history of anxiety, troubles in the home, problems at school and physical illness and disabilities. Parents, help  your children by visiting your general practitioner to be sure your child is healthy and free from nagging discomfort. Allow children to make small decision on a daily basis. Utilize stories and books that relate the same fears and anxieties your child deals with. Regular chiropractic visits will help relieve tension, pain and anxiety as well as help keep your child’s immune system strong. Use dolls to conquer fears and don’t let your love and wants cause you to be too overprotective.

 

References

http://www.hawaii.edu/hivandaids/The%20Anxious%20Child.pdf

http://counseling.tclaywoodes.schools.pwcs.edu/modules/locker/files/get_group_file.phtml?gid=2865484&fid=27436957

https://bewell.stanford.edu/anxiety-children

http://news.psu.edu/story/312234/2014/04/16/research/inhibited-children-become-anxious-adults

http://chiropractorglendaleca-thejoint.com

This article is made available for general, entertainment and educational purposes only. The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of The Joint Corp (or its franchisees and affiliates). You should always seek the advice of a licensed healthcare professional.